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10 tips for leaving Farm Progress Show fat, tired and broke

My philosophy with farm shows is to go early, stay late, and look at every booth and display there is. That is my philosophy. The reality is I am usually tired, sore and hungry by 11 a.m., looking for someplace to sit down, and alarmed that I have only seen about one per cent of the displays.

Farm shows are a lot of work, even if you’re someone like me who really isn’t planning to buy anything, unless I see a miracle mop that works without water (my wife would love that), a hand-held pruning tool that can lob off an oak tree with one easy squeeze, or the most amazing sharpest, stylist pocket knife to add to my collection — you can never have too many jack knives.

But walking, looking, packing around a shopping bag full of literature, pens, rain gauges and notepads, shaking your head “no thanks” while trying to be somewhat pleasant, and doing your best to avoid eye-contact with investment councilors, bankers, shoe polish peddlers and orthotic specialists does make a person weary.

And you really have to watch out for those publication booths. “Do you get our publications? Would you like to subscribe? Would you like to renew? Here, take one of our most recent issues — in fact, we have six, so take one of each they only weigh 10 pounds — you can never have too much to read.” These people are like fly paper, or those annoying people who stand at the door talking and won’t leave, so watch out for them.

A great show

All lamenting aside, I like farm shows. And the Farm Progress Show coming up in Regina June 20 to 22 is a doozy. I don’t go to every farm show in Western Canada, but I hit a few each year and Farm Progress is one of my favorites. Always lots to see, and June is nice month for everything — usually not too hot, and most years, very little chance of snow.

The show is centered at EVRAZ Place/ Regina Exhibition Grounds in Regina. (EVRAZ is a global steel manufacturing and mining company — I didn’t know that.) Follow along Lewvan Drive and you can’t miss it. This year they are on par with about 550 exhibitors. That group is showing off about 1,700 different products — that’s a lot of samples, free gifts and pamphlets to lug home, so bring the truck.

Bryan Adams is headlining a concert at the Brandt Centre June 21, so that would be a great show.

But the real business is selling farm machinery, and every possible farm accessory or service you can imagine. The usual suspects are there — the major Canadian and North American manufacturers of tractors, seeding, harvesting and tillage equipment. The show focuses on field crops — production and crop handling and storage. Along with the majors there are also names, companies and products you may not have heard of… so you have to look around. And there is always a smattering of livestock handling equipment, so be sure to find those booths, if you have cattle.

Much like the Calgary Stampede, where I find the same mini-donut stand is in the same location every year, I am guessing if you saw where Versatile tractors or Brandt augers were last year, they and other regular displayers will be in the same location this year. However, one area that often has something new is the FCC innovations centre and that’s where relatively new equipment ideas or farmer inventions get recognized.

I see this year, among innovations, are a subtiller as well as a vacuum planter for canola developed by Todd Botterill of Newton, Man.; Bobby Volesky of Fargo, North Dakota has a wireless monitor to identify blockages in an air seeder — it sends a message to your iPad in the tractor cab; Mark Devloo of Somerset, Man. has developed a mud scraper for tires; Brad Michel of St. Gregor, Sask. has a crop catcher (shield) for the combine header; Gerald Foster of Sunnybrook, Alta. has a “box” concave system for axial flow rotary combines (I am never sure what that all means); Duane Bartok of Esterhazy, Sask. has a reverser device for the haybine to unplug the haybine from the seat of the tractor; and there are more, but I don’t want to spoil all the surprises.

I haven’t seen any news releases, but I suspect Balzer will be there with a 10,000 bushel grain cart, to compliment Bourgault’s 10,000 bushel air seeding tanks. Seedhawk or Seed Master will likely have 500-foot wide air seeding systems so you can seed all crops in your municipal district in three hours. And Versatile probably has a new Class 22 Russian-built combine you can use to harvest all crops in your county in half a day… point is there is always something bigger, faster and more amazing.

Last year I got a kick out of Sakundiak’s remote control Swing Max Pro auger that operated like one of those Transformer toys. I almost bought a farm, just so I could justify owning one.

The show is big, by my standards anyway, and you will probably be joining 45,000 to 50,000 other Western farmers and their families out to see what is new. The Farm Progress people think it is impressive to mention they have about two million square feet of displays. But to me that just means a lot of walking. That’s about 45 acres. And when you consider you can’t go 10 feet without something to look at, plan on a couple days.

Lee’s show tips

Here are a few tips from my vast farm show experience that may help you enjoy the show to its fullest:

1. Go early — always the best parking options, it’s cooler, and some booths have a limited number of give-aways, so make sure you get yours. Parking is $5 per vehicle. (Show admission is $15 per person — kids under 12 are free.)

2. Get a Farm Progress Show program guide. The Western Producer usually includes one in a June issue, and copies are available on the grounds. It lists all the exhibitors and has maps to show you were to find them if you are looking for something in particular.

3. Ride the trolley. There are several tractor-drawn trolleys winding through the show all day. You can hop on and off at many locations. It not only saves wear and tear on your feet, but it is a good way to familiarize yourself with where various outdoor exhibitors are located so you can plan your day better.

4. Bring your camera, or a cell phone with a camera. A picture of a display, piece of machinery, or a billboard may be easier to carry around than a grocery bag full of pamphlets. Pen and paper are handy tools for making notes. Consider bringing a backpack. It is good way to carry your loot, and still leave your hands free.

5. You know those address labels charities send you when looking for a donation? I’ve seen some people bring those sheets to trade shows and apply them to the contests/draws entry forms at different booths. Good way to use them up. Once or twice I have seen really organized people entering draws with a self-inking rubber stamp.

6. It is a family event, so everyone is welcome. If you have little kids, bring a good stroller. I don’t have little kids anymore, but one piece of advice I heard — if you have little kids avoid locations where they hand out helium filled balloons until later in the day, unless you want to be babysitting a bobbing balloon all day.

7. Dress for comfort. You can never be sure about the weather. Comfortable shoes are important because there is a lot of walking, and as I recall, not all that many places to sit down. Again, a backpack is a good idea for carrying a light jacket, ball cap, or small umbrella. If you have a spouse or friend with you, make sure they have one as well, so you’re not stuck carrying all their stuff too. I’ve been there.

8. Food. There are a number of different food venues. There is one main Tim Hortons in the Co-operator’s Centre, which is always busy, but I also believe there is a second Tim Horton’s kiosk elsewhere on the grounds, so look for that. There are several hamburger stands on the grounds where you can get burgers, sausages, beef on a bun, cold drinks and more. Each has one or two picnic tables, but there isn’t a lot of seating. (There is one burger stand near the Brandt Centre that gives you way more fries than a person can possibly eat, so go there for sure.) The concourse of the Brandt Centre also has concession stands. And there are dining areas inside different buildings, so again consult your show guide for locations. And there is always the beer garden.

9. If you have a tendency toward impulse buying, leave your wallet or cheque book at home, or bring your spouse with you. It is one of those events where “gee, it seemed like a good idea, at the time” might apply. There are some pretty good show deals available from many suppliers, but any reputable outfit will honor those prices until you’ve had time to sleep on it.

10. And, finally, do not, under any circumstances, leave Farm Progress Show without picking up a free copy of Grainews. I’ll even autograph it for you, which should add at least 10 cents to its value as a collector’s item. †

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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