Are agricultural tradeshows dead?

The longer the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, the more permanent some of the changes to modern society and social norms become. While the work on the farm level has changed little, agriculture businesses — like many others — have moved away from office settings to working from home and have kiboshed most travel.

What’s more, not only have ag trade shows and field days been cancelled en masse, many have also moved to an online-only format with varying degrees of success. Recently, Agri-Trade, one of the lone Canadian ag shows holding out and trying to work virtual aspects into an in-person show, eventually cancelled, largely because of the exhibitors not being able to send staff due to corporate policies.

Some in the ag industry have — quietly — noted that perhaps the concept of the ag tradeshow is dated and passé. Perhaps COVID-19 is the black swan event that significantly shifts how business is done in agriculture.

Maybe.

But even if  Zoom meetings, webinars, and virtual events get some participation, they’re simply not the same as an in-person event. Because what online events can’t do is replicate the social aspect of farm shows. If the last 10 years have taught us anything, it’s that even “social” media is still not equivalent to face-to-face interactions. Trading harvest stories, shaking hands, exchanging hugs, and enjoying a pint or two are a valued part of farm shows.

Unlike some other industries, farming is remote and isolated. Plus, there’s the sense of duty to working if farmers are at home. Heading out in the early morning with a hotel booked for a farm show stay is a much needed “unplugging” from the farm. If you’re home, you should be working. If you’re hours away from home, there’s a permission to relax and focus on the learning, as much as the socializing.

And that’s likely enough to keep farm shows alive, at least for a while yet.

What do you think? Is the farm show dead? Have your say! 

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