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The other side of the trade show booth

Bradon’s Ag Days looks a little different when you wear two hats to the show

I’ve been to Ag Days in Brandon, Man., many times, but never have I attended the show from start to finish, and never have I done so as an exhibitor.

I will arrive in Brandon the day before the event begins to setup the Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG) booth.

When I tell seasoned Ag Days exhibitors I’m planning to attend the whole event, from January 17-19, they laugh. They know it’s my first time on the other side of the desk. And they know that I probably won’t consent to such a feat again.

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Farmer holding soybean

Perhaps. But prepping for it has been a lot of work already, and I still easily have four more days in me.

You’ll remember — or you’ll guess — that I help MPSG with communications. I like talking to farmers, and it’s important to my job that I do.

Preparing for AgDays 101

I unearthed last year’s packing list. It’s long, but not long enough. MPSG has grown. The organization has more production resources than it did last year at this time. This is a good thing, but it means changes need to be made to the exhibit.

I would imagine every AgDays exhibitor goes through a period pondering how to best utilize the space they’ve been allotted. The hope is to emerge from such brainstorming sessions with a clear sense of what will be the most effective for the people managing the booth and the attendees it’s meant to engage.

An MPSG agronomist and I arrived January 16. I was nervous. He had never setup an Ag Days booth. Neither had I. And we couldn’t use pictures from last year for reference. We had a larger space this year.

At this stage, it wouldn’t have surprised me to discover that I had forgotten something vital to the event back at the office in Carman, a two-hour drive from Brandon.

“I think the table needs to move a little to the right,” I said. He agreed.

“I don’t like where the TV is,” he said.

We moved it.

This went on until both of us were satisfied enough to walk away from it.

The booth transformed from an empty space delineated by grey curtains into a place where farmers could comfortably peruse literature stands containing our diverse selection of laminated production guides for soybeans and pulses; comfortably sit at one of the two bistro tables for a chat with an agronomist or myself; or grab a recipe book or two on their way down the aisle of MNP Hall in Brandon’s Keystone Centre.

Experiencing Ag Days

There’s nothing romantic about Ag Days. It’s one ag event. There are many others, in Canada, North America, the world. But, put a bunch of farm-related stuff in a room, invite a bunch of farmers, and what you get is greater than the sum of its parts.

When my dad and I attended shortly after my wife and I moved back to the farm in 2012, I was smitten by the machines. It had been a while since I’d seen so many. They were so big. So new. So interesting. I had to write about them. And I did.

The next time brought a different focus. The machines, while still big, new and interesting, took a back seat to the sole proprietorships selling homemade inventions, implements, or add-ons.

This time has been all of these things: the machines, the inventions — amazing and cutting-edge and always worth checking out. But this year’s highlight was people.

Day 1

I spent Day 1 in and out of the MPSG booth. As a farmer, I wanted to walk the exhibits to get a sense of what is out there. I barely got that sense. Each corner, each aisle, yielded another familiar face.

These conversations are valuable. You know this. I knew this. But this event, so far, has been a stark reminder of their worth.

I told my coworkers I’d be right back to the booth. I wasn’t.

When enough time had passed, and enough conversations had taken place, I decided to head back. I got lost a few times, but en route I couldn’t help but notice the kinds of chats that were happening at the various exhibits.

The event is casual, relaxed even, but the farmers attending are not making flippant decisions. They are not making impulse purchases. It’s real farmers asking real questions, making real decisions.

Day 2

This day was all MPSG from 9 to 5. And it was fantastic.

There were many first-time soybean growers coming to our table for production resources, or to chat about varieties, markets, and anything else under the sun.

Some wanted to know what we do at MPSG. This is a fair question, and a fun one to answer. It’s not a chore to talk about our independent, unbiased research, the great work our agronomists do in developing resources for Manitoba farmers, and the events we put on throughout the year.

In the course of a day, I met a lot of people. The breadth of questions we received from farmers was astounding, and the various kinds of operations people have across western Canada are about as diverse as it gets.

Day 3 is tomorrow. It’s the homestretch of a great event. I’m still alive. I still have a few ounces of energy. And I’d agree to such a feat again. GN

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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