A Shopping Mall For Farmers
January 24, 2012
The cold and gloomy weather couldn't prevent another crowd from flocking to the final day of the Virginia Farm Show on Saturday at Augusta Expo.
The trade show has been an annual event since 1996, with Lee Publications Inc. taking over management in 1997.
Virginia Farm Show manager Ken Maring summed up the exhibition as a "shopping mall for farmers."
"You'll find everything from seed to sawmills here," remarked Augusta Expo general manager John Scott, adding that this year's show featured 127 different vendors.
In 2002, it changed venues from Richmond to Augusta County, which turned out to be the best possible move for attracting farmers.
"The farmers here don't want to leave the Valley and go into the city," Maring said. "The heart of agriculture is here in the Shenandoah Valley, and the perfect location was the Expo."
Maring pointed to Augusta Expo's closeness to interstate, high doorways that allow for bigger equipment and abundance of indoor space as some of the reasons why the facility makes an outstanding host site for his trade show.
Scott called the Virginia Farm Show one of the Expo's "cornerstone events" and mentioned that it also stimulates the local economy.
"It fills up a lot of hotel rooms and restaurant tables," Scott added.
The high density of farmers in the area also doesn't hurt the show's cause.
"The majority of people come here because they run a farm," Maring said. "And the new generation of farmers aren't your stereotypical farmers who sit around milking cows all day – their time is worth money – so if they can do it more effectively time-wise and fuel-wise, it's well worth it to them."
In order to draw in more part-time farmers who work other jobs Monday through Friday, the show switched over to a weekend format this year, running from Thursday to Saturday. In years past, it had run from Monday to Wednesday.
Maring estimated a 15 percent increase in attendance from last year, and Scott said Friday attracted one of the biggest crowds he had seen in the 10 years Augusta Expo has hosted the event.
When it comes to the 127 vendors and 180 companies represented at the Virginia Farm Show, some exhibitors only display their products, some get leads for potential sales and others sell equipment right off the lot.
According to Scott, companies from 15 states were represented, some as far away as Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Dave McKeen commuted 12 hours from the far northeast corner of New York that neighbors Canada to represent Valmetal, Inc., a Canadian company that specializes in feeding equipment such as mixers to conveyors.
"We've been trying to develop this area," said McKeen. "I've got a pretty good dealer in Harrisonburg and we've started making some in-roads for our products and don't want to sit still, so we're going to promote our line to the customers down here."
McKeen was also at the farm exhibition on behalf of Jamesway Farm Equipment, another Canadian outfit that sells manure equipment.
Agricultural giant AGCO was the only corporation in the Virginia Farm Show. While most of the vendors were dealers or branches of larger manufacturers, AGCO rented out nearly an entire room to showcase its line of compact utility equipment, which for the first time included industrial-sized tractors.
AGCO Senior Product Specialist Clinton Boone noted that his employer has been a part of the Virginia Farm Show since the event's inception 16 years ago, and the monster-sized tractors on display were a major crowd-pleaser.
One of those that provided for an exciting photo opportunity was a 14-foot-tall tractor built by the German manufacturer Fendt – owned by AGCO – with 225 horsepower and a transmission that allows it to run for roughly 17,000 hours.
"It's very seldom that a guy can put that many hours on a tractor," Boone said.
With such a high bar set at this year's Virginia Show, not even the Farmer's Almanac will be able to predict how much bigger and better next year's will be.
- Source: Dustin Woolridge, The News Virginian
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