Busy farm shows pleasant indicator of healthy sector

Farm shows are always a good source of information, not just for farmers, but for editors, too.


As do most of our readers, I like to see the latest in technology and new ideas. We know what you like from your feedback, polling results and internet statistics analysis, all tempered by experience.


Yes, we can see what you look at on our website, geographically where you come from, how long you stay and a variety of other information about you and 100,000 or so other users of producer.com. 


Don’t worry, it just applies to our site. Where you go after that is more of a CSIS or NSA thing.


Farm shows also tell us about you, but with fewer statistics.


I watch producers’ activities around show booths: are they busy, do they retain people longer and do people brave pouring rain to visit them? Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina is especially good for measuring the latter question.


After more than 20 years of covering farm shows and 30 years of attending them before that (I was a farm kid in the 1960s and 1970s), I have tied producer activity at these events to the health of the farm economy.


Farm shows typically drew a diverse crowd in the early 1990s, younger farm families and older producers alike. Younger farmers tended to visit on a Friday, or if there was a Saturday event, on Saturday. Likely, they had day jobs. 


However, fewer families attended as that decade wore on. Older producers were still there, but there were fewer couples and young men. This demographic shift matched farm income and consolidation statistics.


The negative margin years of the early 2000s saw the crowds get greyer and new products become fewer as tight farm economics trickled into the machinery and technology sectors.


Families and young farmers nearly vanished in Western Canada by 2006. Then the commodity rise of 2008 hit, and fall shows that year were busier.


Attendees, both sellers and buyers, have become more diverse since 2009. 


I don’t think there are any more buyers than there once were, but there are more new ideas for sale and more people interested in buying them.


And kids once again run everywhere at the shows. It feels healthy to me.