Another Mid-South Farm and Gin Show has come and gone — another people-packed two days in the Memphis Cook Convention Center, seeing all that’s new in the ag sector, from huge farm machines, to sophisticated technology, and the latest in ag chemicals and services.
For our Farm Press crew, it’s a particularly busy week, handling preliminaries for the show that we’ve been proud to co-sponsor for decades, and then three days of covering meetings/seminars/events related to the Southern Cotton Ginners Association annual meeting and honors banquet, concentrated walking around the huge convention center, and taking a lot of photos for our popular photo album. The 25-page section is in the March 23 issue of Delta Farm Press and is on our website — click here to view the photos.
It’s a tiring time, walking and standing on concrete floors for the two days of the show, and my weary bod welcomes Saturday at 4:30, when it’s time to close up shop, grab an early dinner, and collapse into bed.
FAMILY TIME: The Mid-South Farm and Gin Show is always a time for families. Here are a few of those attending the 2018 show.
But at the same time, we thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to see friends in the farm and business community, to chat with those in the commercial sector about what’s new on the ag scene, to talk with farmers from all over the South about what’s on their minds, and to listen to experts discuss what’s shaping up for the coming year from marketing, legislative, and regulatory standpoints.
That aspect of the show was all the more newsworthy this year by the almost last-minute disclosure that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue would speak at the Saturday morning Ag Update session, at which he announced approval of the much-sought Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program. Afterward, as is his modus operandi — he is nothing if not a people person — he spent a couple of hours walking around the convention center, chatting with showgoers and exhibitors, watching FFA members as they were packing nearly 50,000 food parcels for Mid-South needy (click here for FFA photos), posing for photos with exhibitors and showgoers, and just generally seeming to have a grand old time.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stopped for a visit at the Stover Equipment exhibit. From left are Tony Williams, Jaxon Grove, Mr. Perdue, Lagina Williams and Jimmy Stover.
It’s also a privilege to join in paying tribute to those who’ve been selected for recognition for SCGA honors awards — Ginner of the Year Dennis Adams; Vandergriff Pioneer Award Winner Dr. Calvin Parnell; Memorial Scholarship honoree, the late George Pugh, Sr.; SCGA safety award winners (click here to see safety award photos); and the Behind-The-Scenes award to our own Forrest Laws, recently retired from Delta Farm Press after 37 years.
It’s also at the show when we at Farm Press honor outstanding cotton producers from each of the four cotton belt regions. This year’s Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton Award recipients — Alabama producer Nick McMichen, Mississippi producers Jack and Joe Huerkamp, Oklahoma producer Merlin Schantz, and Arizona producer Ron Rayner — exemplify growers who produce high-yielding, top quality cotton while employing practices that protect and preserve soil, water, and air.
Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton Award winners for 2018, honored at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, were presented their trophies by Greg Frey, left, senior vice president of operations for Farm Progress/Farm Press. Winners, from left, are Merlin Schantz, Southwest states, Hydro, Okla.; Ron Rayner, Western states, Goodyear, Ariz.; Joe Huerkamp and Jack Huerkamp, Delta states, Macon, Miss.; and Nick McMichen, Southeast states, Centre, Ala.
If you came to the show, thank you. If you couldn’t attend, we’ve distilled it for you in this week's Delta Farm Press pages and in articles and photo galleries on our website.
Major convention center upgrade getting under way
Shortly after the show wrapped this year, contracts were to be let and construction to begin on a $175 million expansion and renovation of the Cook Convention Center that is scheduled to be completed in fourth quarter 2019.
Artist's rendering of the revamped Memphis Cook Convention Center, scheduled for completion in late 2019.
The facility, the main part of which dates back to 1974, has been getting increasingly long in the tooth, and this project aims to leapfrog it into today’s era, when metropolitan convention centers look more like fancy hotels/shopping complexes that are more visitor/exhibitor/conference-friendly, with a lot of eye appeal. The addition in 2003 of the beautiful adjacent Cannon Performing Arts center only served to heighten the dowdiness of the convention center.
While the “bones” of the facility are still good, this project will transform it from visual and utilitarian standpoints. “Every square inch of the convention center will be touched by this project, bringing hotel quality finishes and modern amenities desired by meeting planners and delegates,” says Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.” Architects and designers “have collaborated to develop a plan that utilizes and enhances the existing facility (but will) expand the footprint of the building with outdoor terraces and glass-enclosed concourses, pre-function and meetings spaces that embrace the river and skyline views, while adding valuable square footage that includes additional breakout meeting rooms.”
Interior view of the remodeled Memphis Cook Convention Center, scheduled for completion late in 2019.
A welcome change for Mid-South Farm and Gin Show exhibitors, who move in a lot of big equipment, furniture, and booth elements, will be an expansion of the present single loading dock to five permanent docks on the second level that will accommodate five 18-wheelers to load in and load out for shows.
The main exhibit hall, with close to 120,000 square feet of column-free space, will be reconfigured to be easily transformed into a 40,000-square-foot secondary ballroom, with a wall of windows and an exterior pre-function concourse overlooking the Mississippi River and the Memphis skyline. Additional windows will be installed on the eastern side of the building to take advantage of views to the east.
Also redesigned will be the underground parking facility to make it more visually appealing and to provide badly needed additional space.
When complete, the revamped convention center is going to be a stunning asset to downtown Memphis and a grand setting for the 2020 Mid-South Farm and Gin Show. You can read all about it and see gorgeous artist renderings of what the finished product will look like at http://bit.ly/2FKrLJL