My career with Indiana Prairie Farmer began in 1981, and I attended the Brimfield, Ill., Farm Progress Show as an employee. Best I can recollect, I had attended four Indiana shows previously, and have only missed three shows since 1981. I have about four decades of Farm Progress Shows under my belt.
The first one I attended in Brookston, Ind., as a high school FFA member in the late 1960s whetted my appetite. The show has been called “the world’s fair of agriculture” and many other things, but first and foremost, it’s a place where companies show farmers their latest and greatest products, and where farmers talk to farmers. That hasn’t changed, and hopefully never will.
Here are five lessons I brought back from the 2019 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill.:
1. The show still draws a huge crowd. Were there as many people there this year on any given day as at the 1979 Crawfordsville, Ind., show? Probably not. Have you noticed how many fewer farmer-neighbors you have compared to 40 years ago? There were still big crowds, even on Tuesday but especially on Wednesday. The Wednesday crowd, based on my perception, ranks among the biggest single-day crowds of the last 25 years.
2. Farm Progress Show is still a bargain. That leads to this point. Yes, it costs to get in today — $20 if you didn’t pay attention to all the ways to get $5 discounts. I only heard one pair of farmers complain. One told me the cost would ruin our show. It certainly didn’t seem like it, especially on Wednesday. Companies invest lots of money preparing exhibits to inform and sell, and it takes staff, power and many other things to put on the show.
3. There is a vast number of new products. I head up a team of four editors who scour the show for any products new since last year’s Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa. Our list will approach 200 new products again this year. It’s the same number we’ve found for the past several years. Despite tough times in agriculture, companies continue to improve products and bring out totally new ones. Look for these new-products roundup stories beginning soon.
4. You can still get tired at the show. In the early days as an employee, I parked cars and helped manage traffic. By Thursday evening I would be dead tired. Now we search for new products, talking to company reps. By Thursday evening I’m still dead tired. And I even have a golf cart to ride. Maybe it has something to do with getting older!
5. Mud is still mud. Moving to permanent sites some 15 years ago, although it has its drawbacks, certainly has its benefits. It rained a half-inch Monday before the show, and the show still went on Tuesday, opening on time. No, there were no field demonstrations Tuesday, but there were the rest of the week, with huge crowds watching combines Wednesday.
Mud is still mud, however, just like it was 50 years ago. However, compared to Knightstown, Ind., in 1985, there was no ankle-to-knee-deep mud in the streets. You could find mud if you looked for it, but you could also avoid it. Paved streets don’t get as muddy.
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