Farmers ‘shop until they drop’ at first day of World Ag Expo

Pillows of morning low-lying fog greeted the early bird farmers who gathered Tuesday for the first of day of the world’s largest agricultural exposition, the 2008 World Ag Expo (WAE) in Tulare, Calif.

As the sun rose higher, skies cleared and farmers lined the expo streets for a hands-on, kick-the-tires opportunity to visit with the 1,700 exhibitors on 2.6 million square feet of expo grounds.

From farm equipment to cutting edge technology, farmers’ eyes were glazed over like a child in a candy store.

At the Toyota Tundra truck test track, folks with driver’s licenses test drove 381 horsepower trucks - climbing high banks and steep inclines and declines. To qualify for the drive, drivers first had to exhale into a breathalyzer.

Attending the WAE for their seventh consecutive year were Alma and Darlene Bastian, second-generation alfalfa hay growers from the Sevier Valley in Vermillion, Utah.

“We shop around and look at the displays,” Darlene Bastian said. “If something catches our eye, we stop, investigate a little more, and sometimes buy.”

Alma Bastian’s eyes were glued on a new hay rake. “We saw this new rake with fingers that reduces knocking off leaves compared to some power-driven rakes.”

The Bastians sell most of their 180-acres of alfalfa hay locally. Yet the couple sold some hay in Texas in 2007.

“Prices were great last year – one of the best years we’ve had. It helps when you can make a little money instead of spending it all on trying to grow the crop,” Alma Bastian said.

Wednesday is day two of WAE. Exhibitors are open for business from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Hours on Thursday, the final day, are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

General admission is $10 per day. Attendees are required to register electronically before entering the show grounds. WAE offered advance electronic registration, but that ended on Feb. 1.

Those not pre-registered need to register at the gate. Attendees get a badge with a bar code for use by exhibitors to identify visitors. This new twist is in response to exhibitors who want to know who is coming to the show. WAE is the first ag show to register attendees electronically.

Back by popular demand and convenience is the park and ride shuttle service. While parking at WAE is free, attendees are encouraged to park and ride.

Parking at the following locations allows attendees to take the Orange Belt bus to the WAE showgrounds to avoid traffic congestion:

- Preferred Outlets of Tulare

- Tulare Transit Center

- Tulare Airport

- Tulare County Fairgrounds

- Visalia Mall

- Mid Valley Cotton Gin

Information booths are located throughout the showgrounds to assist visitors in locating specific exhibitors and interest areas.

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