Speculation is rampant on the future of Canada’s Farm Progress Show. Formerly known as the Western Canada Farm Progress Show, the annual event in Regina just celebrated its 40th anniversary. However, the show wasn’t exactly busting at the seams.
Exhibitors complain about the time and cost of getting large equipment into the city. Parking issues frustrate both exhibitors and attendees, and a perpetual complaint is that the show coincides with spraying operations. While sprayers are busy through much of the growing season, herbicide application season is arguably the most extensive and time sensitive.
Show organizers have taken steps such as a shuttle service to address parking issues, but anything that reduces convenience is an irritant.
When it’s windy and/or raining, spraying grinds to a halt and that helped maintain attendance this year.
It can be tough to attract a crowd for speakers when producers want to look at iron and kick tires. One of the speakers on the opening morning ended up with about five people in his audience when there were chairs set up for about 180. Big name speakers later in the week such as Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc. did draw good crowds.
Many exhibitors were pleased with the attendance. Others, especially equipment manufacturers, are examining their future involvement with the show.
The empty and under-used space at the show could be an indication of a looming problem for future years. A big new building is under construction, but will the show attract enough exhibitors to use it?
Ag in Motion, held just a month after Farm Progress Show at an outdoor site northwest of Sask-atoon, is the new kid on the block. Some major exhibitors seem inclined to put their time and effort into the new event at the expense of the Regina mainstay.
An outdoor event allows for equipment demonstrations and crop plots. Getting equipment into the site isn’t such a big hassle, and parking isn’t a problem.
Even though the growing season is short and there’s never an ideal time, July is arguably less busy. The location isn’t as handy for producers in southern regions, but producers are inclined to travel farther for something they want to see.
Just coming up to its third year, Ag in Motion is still growing and developing, so exhibitors are less inclined to complain, chocking up any problems to growing pains. They tend to focus on what the show may become.
While wind and rain is typically good for Farm Progress Show attendance, rain is an impediment to many Ag in Motion activities.
In the years when the grain farming economy was suffering financially, there was always speculation about the future of Farm Progress Show. When a major exhibitor dropped out, observers wondered if it would create a domino effect. The show managed to continue and thrive and has really carved out a niche as a marketplace for international equipment buyers.
Is there room for two major growing season events that are only one month and three hours driving time apart? Can Farm Progress Show re-invent itself to remain relevant? Will the momentum established by Ag in Motion be maintained? Stay tuned.
Editor’s note: Ag in Motion is owned by Glacier FarmMedia, which also owns The Western Producer.
Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.