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World Ag Expo
The World Ag Expo each February more than doubles the population of Tulare, Calif.

What can observations at the World Ag Expo teach us?

Latest gathering included tutorials about space, rice industry, FarmHer movement.

For three days each February the community of Tulare, Calif., swells to more than double its size as the International Agri-Center hosts the World Ag Expo, an event that showcases the latest in agricultural technology and boasts attendance of over 100,000.

There is frankly too much for one person to see in all the exhibits spanning acres of open space, temporary and permanent buildings. Truthfully, as much excitement as there is for opening day to come around, there’s a huge sense of relief by day three as the 16-hour days and five miles walked per day take their toll.

Still, I enjoy the time as my job affords me the opportunity to meet many people and to visit with friends and acquaintances I may only see once a year at what many of us still refer to as “the farm show.” This year, the science geek in me enjoyed meeting NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who talked up the space agency’s connections with agricultural technology. I also met Marji Guyler-Alaniz, president and founder of Farm Her, an Iowa-based organization working to encourage young women to become more involved in agriculture, and I caught up with university researchers I know who explained how certain fungi can be a useful integrated pest management tool while simultaneously promoting healthy plant growth.

I also realized that I should pay closer attention to Rice Farming TV, a YouTube channel by northern California rice grower Matthew Sligar. He contacted me ahead of posting his inaugural “Shop Talk” segment on YouTube after reading one of my columns. His segment comments on that column, in which I share data from a United Van Lines study that suggests a younger demographic is replacing an older population in California. Within about 48 hours of Sligar posting his video, I had numerous text and direct messages recommending I view it, suggesting if nothing else that he has a considerable following.

I first met Guyler-Alaniz ahead of her presentation to an all-female audience on how she left the security and pay of a corporate career and started FarmHer with little more than personal passion for an idea and a digital camera. Her encouragement to the young women in the audience easily crosses gender and age boundaries. All of us could take a lesson from her story on discovering one’s passion and following dreams.

Passion for an idea can be powerfully positive, as referenced by the example of the FarmHer founder. I was pleased to hear of the recent plan by respected Cal Poly Agricultural Communications Professor, Dr. J. Scott Vernon, and a few others to put together a group of professional ag communicators here in California, something I agree is sorely needed in a state as diverse and agriculturally-productive as California. I look forward to Dr. Vernon’s input and participation in what could be the start of a landmark effort of agricultural promotion in the state.

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