By Shaun Haney
Its that time of year that we all take a deep breath. Agricultural tradeshow season is over and now its time to get down to the business of farming. This winter I have been across the country at the majority of the major farm shows. Many of the tradeshow booths are the same, but the faces are different depending on where you are in the country.
After being to the Outdoor Farm Show, Agri-Trade, Southwest Agricultural Conference, Tiffin Conference, CropWeek, Farmtech, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Conference, Ag-Expo and the London Farm Show the exhibitors and myself are ready to see farmers hit the field. After many restaurants, tonnes of interviews and several pints of beer I have reflected and picked up a few things.
Socializing in the beer gardens is a major fabric of Western Canadian Farm shows. I’m not saying that Ontario farmers don’t like to have a few pints but the shows in Ontario feel different. Due to the fact farmers in the west live over such a larger geography, farmers use the farm show for the social aspects as much as the educational seminars or tradeshow. Other people have told me that because there are more dairies in the east, farmers have to attend the show and then return home for milking and other chores and cannot stay around all day to socialize and attend beer gardens or evening events.
Booths are getting more elaborate and flashy for the major companies. The options that are available for showcasing your companies products has gotten very creative. There are twenty by thirties, tall flags, spotlights to 50 inch plasma screens all across the country trying to impress farmers into thinking this is the company you need to do business with. Canadian agriculture gave away quite a few Ipads this winter through draws and contests. Due to the Canadian farm show circuit there will be quite a few farmers using Ipads this summer.
Being a Local Makes You Biased. Its funny when you talk to a local farmer or salesperson about the local farm show and they give you the standard line of, “this is the show you have to be at because this is where the business gets done.” I hear it across the country and I am sure that in many cases its true and in many cases its BS. Business gets done at most farm tradeshows if your product purchase cycle and the show timing line up. I don’t think there is a show across the country that is the make or break for the industry like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is for the technology industry.
Companies are beginning to question which shows to commit to. For some of the mid sized to smaller national players, the cost of “just being in attendance” is a huge cost. I think we are going to see a continued evaluation by companies to see which shows they have to be at for their business to be successful. The key will be for some of the the farm shows to not lose momentum and booth participants, otherwise we might see a few shows disappear over the long term. I think the traditional tradeshow is really threatened by shows like the Outdoor Farm Show, CropWeek and FarmTech. All three of those I listed provide an added sense of value on top of just booths in dim lit buildings.
The seminar shows are becoming very popular. The seminar programs are popular because it gives farmers a chance to learn and collaborate with their peers. The other large driver of traffic to the seminar shows is the opportunity for CCA’s to get credits by attending. Very smart.
This years shows are over but don’t worry the first one on the agenda is Farm Progress in June in Regina. See you all there.