World Ag Expo hangover: achy bones, upright thumbs

It is the day after attending the 2011 World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., and the ‘ol bod is in hangover mode. Perhaps a better description is a “stupor.” My “double nickel” age corresponds to the number of aches and pains flowing at warp speed through the body.

A ‘time out’ is the doctor’s (wife’s) best advice. It is time for a respite after walking a gazillion miles, Feb. 8-10, over the Expo show grounds, the world’s largest farm exposition, which covers 2.6 million square feet. Hoofing it across the dirt tundra like everyone else is the reality; no golf cart rides.

A few reflective thoughts on this year’s Expo; my fifth consecutive and the best ever. The weather was perfect with sun-drenched skies, a slight refreshing breeze, and light jacket temperatures in the low 60s. Rain generally falls during the annual Expo week creating short-lived mud baths. Not this year.

Crowds were extremely heavy each day and all day long. The farm show generally draws about 100,000 visitors. Perhaps attendance records were shattered this year.

Perusing the Expo grounds looking for good agricultural news stories involves engaging attendees in conversations. This year’s attendees were definitely in a positive mood. Current high prices for cotton, wheat, and other crops, plus strong fruit and nut demand helped paste some grins on the faces.

In past years, interviews with farmers revealed purchases made at Expo – from front-end loaders, almond brush chippers, flagpoles, GPS systems, and the like. Conversations this year did not uncover a single sale, yet surely millions to billions of dollars worth of transactions transpired or will result in sales in the months ahead.

What growers said is they have already invested in the latest and greatest technology and were shopping to tweak the high-tech components to give their operation an additional edge. Agriculture has come a long way from its bib-overall image to a sophisticated, well-educated, respected global business where participants engage technology to survive in the global agricultural market.

One young farmer was kicking the tires on a new green-paint combine to possibly add to the family’s custom harvest business in California’s Central Valley. He had spent numerous hours on the Internet prior to Expo conducting homework. He talked turkey with the sales rep.

A disappointment at this year’s Expo was poor attendance at some education seminars. The seminar topics and speakers were top notch, but some rooms were two-thirds empty. One beef seminar was attended by a mere 15-plus people. The speaker was Amanda Radke, a young South Dakota rancher, who is holding the feet to the fire of those working around the clock to abolish the U.S. livestock industry by a heavy-handed, misguided conversion to a vegetarian diet.

Radke, the online editor with BEEF Daily, a Farm Press sister media partner,, is rattling the nationwide anti-meat circuit through posts on the social websites Facebook and Twitter. Several years ago Radke led 1,000 people to walk out of a Carrie Underwood country music concert at the National FFA Convention based on the singer’s anti-beef campaign.

The 20-plus-year-old Radke is currently challenging talk show goddess Oprah Winfrey for ongoing anti-meat rhetoric.

The airplane flight home to Phoenix included a conversation with a show exhibitor who was extremely pleased with the folks who stopped by the company’s sales booth – both in the quantity (people numbers) and quality (potential buyers). The plant-nutrient salesman viewed Expo as well worth the time and money; a great platform to advance the company’s plant-based solutions.   

The 2012 World Ag Expo is Feb. 14-16, in Tulare. 

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