A farmer drops me a line from time to time, commenting on one story or another. His views are always insightful. You won't ever read his views directly, because he doesn't want to be quoted or named. That's ok, I respect his wishes. I am just glad everyone doesn't feel that way!
One of his emails this spring vented his frustration with the Farm Progress Show no longer being held in Indiana. The last show here was held in Lafayette in 2001, two weeks after the horrific 9/11 tragedy.
He wasn't writing this one just to me. He went all the way to our National Director of Advertising and our show manager, and just copied me. He was so upset that he concluded that he would never attend the Farm Progress Show again!
Our folks answered him and copied me. They reviewed the logic that led us to two permanent sites and to Illinois and Iowa. The 50th Anniversary Show lost two days to rain, and companies invest too much today not to be on a permanent site where at least the show has a much better chance of opening, no matter what the weather. They looked for a site on the state line, but couldn't find a suitable one.
I'm sure none of that influenced my email friend. He was feeling a sense of loss – once having been part of something special, something bigger than Ringling Brothers Circus, held in a cornfield. Wow, that was exciting.
And it was – but tractors cost a few thousand dollars, not $300,000, and companies invested a fraction of what they invest in advertising and shows today. Unfortunately the business world caught up with agriculture as well.
I offer my email friend a different philosophy. Whether you know it or not, your generation helped make the best farm show on earth, according to some recent ranking of shows- all trade shows- it's the best of the best- your attendance helped create the mystique and the legend. Hundreds of thousands of farmers showing up to see the latest trend greatest made quite an impression, even on city people.
It still does. You can still make a difference today. You can show your Hoosier pride by coming to the show. Forget about borders. The show is three hours from downtown Indianapolis. It takes longer to drive to Evansville or South Bend than that. Don't let stubbornness and the illusion of a long journey stop you from seeing what truly is a display of the most advanced technology in the world.
One of my jobs at the show today is to lead a team covering new products. For the past two years running we've found over 200 new products at the show. Many are introduced there. Every year a handful aren't even for sale yet – they're just prototypes. Companies want the leaders of agriculture to see what is coming- what they believe will make agriculture better tomorrow.
That's who comes to the shows- people who want to learn and see and maybe even compare pieces of equipment they might need to buy.
This year the site has been expanded to the biggest Tent City ever. There are antique tractors of the past, the most modern tractors of the future, drones, cover crops, market forecasts and so much more.
Personally, I wish Indiana was still a host too. But we are still a sponsor- our magazine is co-sponsor of the show. Our FFA members will raise money at the Titan Tire auction- they raised $100,000 in 2013 and split half with Illinois FFA. Our FFA teams will come and judge soils at the only soil judging contest I know of that offers cash prizes, thanks to Farm Credit Services.
So stay home and brood if you want. It won't change reality. Instead, relish the past and the show you helped create. Then come see the modern version. If you haven't been for a while, you won't recognize it.
That's why the August issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer will still have a Farm Progress Show cover, and why it will contain the Farm Progress Show program. It's the greatest agricultural display ever assembled, and it has Hoosier roots. Help me make sure it is still shaped by Hoosiers in the future!