Exhibitors say Farmfair felt quieter this year

The Edmonton show hosted 920 head of cattle this year, which is a decrease of 155 head from the 1,075 that attended last year

The barns at Farmfair International seemed quieter than normal this year as exhibitors began showing and marketing their cattle.

This is the first year Farmfair was without the Canadian Finals Rodeo, a major event that drew in large crowds to the Edmonton Expo Centre. The rodeo was held in Red Deer this year after the City of Edmonton closed the Coliseum, its former home.

Without the major rodeo, the event drew in only 40,701 guests. Last year, 101,129 people attended, though it was considered a record-breaking event.

“We knew that Farmfair would look different this year, but we are pleased with the end result,” Northlands president Gordon Wilson said in a news release.

“We will continue to work with industry partners and stakeholders to ensure that Farmfair continues to meet industry needs.”

Despite lower attendance, cattle and exhibitor numbers remained relatively strong, according to Jessie Radies, director of agriculture with Northlands.

The event hosted only one national show this year, compared to five last year, but managed to bring in 920 head. Last year, Farmfair brought in 1,075 head.

As for beef exhibitors, 274 attended the event this year. Last year, there were 249.

“Given that we don’t have five national shows, we still have really strong representation from the beef sector,” Radies said.

Despite the good numbers, the mood in the barns among some exhibitors was subdued.

On opening day, some exhibitors said the event felt quieter, anticipating there might be fewer buyers. Others were holding out hope that it would pick up as the week progressed.

“I think with entries being down and due to the fact we lost the CFR, a lot of people who exhibit here question whether or not there is going to be enough business,” said Nicolle Hoskins of Cinder Angus near Barrhead, Alta.

She said she would have a better idea on how business went once the event was over. The family has been coming for roughly 20 years and Farmfair is a staple event they can’t miss.

“It’s a show close to home for us,” she said.

“We don’t want to drop them like a hot potato. You’ve got to try to make a go of it and see where it goes.”

Other exhibitors felt similarly. Though they said the event feels smaller, they will continue to show their support. The quality of cattle has also remained the same.

“It’ll be sad if it ever ends,” said Samantha Roscoe of Family Ties Angus from Marwayne, Alta.

“There are friends and family you make here over the years. This has always been our favourite show.”

Radies said Farmfair doesn’t track the number of local buyers, so it will be difficult to know exactly what the turnout will be. However, the event does track international buyers, and there were 79 them this year, down from 93 last year.

She said the event will remain successful as long as buyer attendance and the livestock shows remain strong. Lower attendance from the general public will generally affect the shopping vendors, she added.

“The biggest outcome in delivery we bring to this show are really market access and an opportunity to get together and collectively bring their product to market,” she said.

The organization has an agreement with the city to stay at the Expo Centre until 2022. Once the agreement is over, it has the option to renew the agreement and stay until 2027.

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