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Toban Dyck: Finding your way at the farm show

With things to see and people to meet, there’s a lot to do at a farm show

A view from above of a display floor at Manitoba Ag Days.

Focus is a difficult phenomenon. There are too many things actively competing for our attention. I was at Ag Days in Brandon, Man., in January. I sat at the Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers booth and I also took some time to walk around the trade show.

Climbing on new machinery used to be my benchmark for a successful trade show experience. Then I turned 39 and everything changed. I am joking, of course. That benchmark hasn’t changed.

I told my booth mate that I need to fill my water bottle and that I’d, “be right back.” I seized the opportunity and decided to zig-zig my way through the multi-level Ag Days experience.

When I was more impulsive than I am now, my determination at such events was to, first, get a reusable bag — probably from FCC or Ag More Than Ever, second, fill said bag with, quite literally, every free item I could find.

That bag would then sit in my closet, forgotten and forsaken. I never dug through it looking for a pen, because, eureka, I don’t need more pens, and I certainly haven’t been in want of a ball cap since I have been old enough to drive a three-wheeler — so, five(ish).

It’s challenging to know how best to consume a trade show. I feel on-guard. My commitment to leave without any free stuff is not so easy. It means I have to reject the advances of a sea of enthusiastic company representatives. It all feels aggressive at times.

The machinery. Wow. I found my way to the big-ticket items, still on my quest to fill my water bottle. The combines are big. The sprayers have insane wingspans, and the newest seeders do things I may never understand. It’s a spectacle I don’t feel especially connected to. I don’t peruse Lamborghini dealerships for similar reasons.

The do-it-yourself inventors have booths. The big companies have booths. The banks have booths. The app developers have booths. I could have a booth for my woodcrafts or my writing services. There’s space in ag for everyone and everything, it seems.

The objective, it seems, is for sales reps to snap people out of their overstimulated state, perhaps with a witty rejoinder or by offering something for free, and grab a sliver of their attention. I saw it working. I am partial to witticisms, so I use this method at our booth and I am also vulnerable to its charm when implemented on me.

It’s impossible to take everything in. These shows require a level of ADHD of attendees.

I know veteran farmers and seasoned trade-show goers have a system that seems to work for them. They may come to hear a speaker, visit a particular booth or just meet-up with friends. I am not there yet. I don’t yet know how to deal with all the stimuli, and I’m willing to bet I’m not alone. The machinery is large and, no doubt, amazing, but I want to believe that the smaller things in my price range are capable of good things, as well.

When I think about Jamie’s and my farm, I think about diversification and get bogged down in the seemingly infinite amount of options. I don’t want more stuff competing for my headspace.

I want to be able to identify the “great” of a pool of mediocre. This is easier said than done. It’s hard to think clearly when one’s attention is in pieces.

I came to and realized I should get back to our booth. I had abandoned my coworker and I still hadn’t filled my water bottle. I trudged back, a tad proud of the fact that I didn’t get lost in the process. My booth partner was chatting with some farmers about on-farm trials — a popular topic at our Ag Days booth. I walked past him and filled my container at the filling station that happened to be only a few feet from our space.

About the author


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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