Farm Progress Show serves as central place for farming, hope for futures

The Farm Progress Show is a biennial agricultural exposition hosted in Boone. The three-day show attracts more than 200,000 visitors and numerous agricultural companies. It was held Aug. 28 to 31.

Frances Myers

Just a few miles away from Ames — at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, to be exact — may lie the key to many future ISU graduates getting employment.

The Farm Progress Show, according to its website, is “the nation’s leading outdoor farm show and features the most extensive state-of-the art information and technology available for today’s agricultural producers.”

Pioneer is a huge employer for Iowa State, said Julie Kenney, communications manager for Pioneer, so the Farm Progress Show sees a lot of ISU alumni working around the area of their alma mater. According to an article in USA Today: “DuPont Pioneer has been a top employer of College of Agriculture graduates for the past two years.”

Kenney said Pioneer is looking to get an influx of ISU graduates hired within the next few years.

“There’s a huge talent pool, and we’re looking at hiring 4,000 employees over the next five years, so we’re really looking at Iowa State for all those positions,” Kenney said.

This year, there are approximately 577 exhibitors at the Farm Progress Show. Exhibitors range from seed producers such as DuPont Pioneer and AgriGold Hybrids Seed Company, to machinery such as John Deere and Case IH, all looking to get the word out about their innovations to potential customers.

Kenney said one of the finer points Pioneer was pushing at this year’s Farm Progress Show was in regards to the drought that has farmers in high stress mode about their crop production.

“One of the big things that [Pioneer] is showcasing is, obviously 2012 was a very tough growing season, so we’ve got Optimum Aquamax products on the market today, which provide drought tolerance, so we’re catching a lot of attention from farmers seeing the conditions they’re facing this year,” Kenney said.

Kenney said Pioneer’s agronomy team was at the Farm Progress Show helping customers figure out what to do for the 2012 season and how to prepare for 2013’s growing season. The Farm Progress Show is one of Pioneer’s biggest trade shows they attend.

“It’s an opportunity for us to meet with customers, help answer questions, give them a glimpse of some of the experts,” Kenney said. “It’s a nice opportunity to have all those people in one place so if anyone has a question, it’s really helpful and it also has people start thinking about 2013.”

Visitors come from all over the United States as well as abroad to experience everything the Farm Progress Show has to offer.

According to The Des Moines Register: “The biennial Farm Progress Show will attract more than 200,000 visitors from the U.S. and 40 foreign countries.”

Iowa State’s College of Design was also present at the show, showcasing the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Exhibit. 

The Farm Progress Show was the last stop for the exhibit, which was also displayed in Washington during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in late June and early July, as well as the Iowa State Fair Aug. 9-19.

“We’ve definitely been seeing a lot of people,” said Bobbi Kruckenberg, program assistant in the design administration at Iowa State. “I was not there when we displayed it in Washington, but I was at the Iowa State Fair. It’s a little different crowd because we’ve been seeing a lot of foot traffic, but it’s more people just passing through and not stopping to explore the exhibit so much.”

Iowa State’s Beginning Farmer’s Center booth was right next to the Smithsonian exhibit. David Baker, extension program specialist for the College of Agriculture, spoke with visitors who were interested in what the Center was all about.

Unlike many of the visitors in Boone, Baker did not have the opportunity to grow up on a farm. Yet he was one of the many farmers who traveled from near and far to attend the annual Farm Progress Show.

“I grew up a ‘town boy,’” Baker said. “I got involved in 4-H and FFA, though, and I wanted to be a farmer. Now I’ve been one for 35 years. I fought the odds.”

“You don’t have to grow up on a farm in order to become a farmer,” Baker said. “You just need to have the drive to get through the rough spots and to compete.”

The Beginning Farmer’s Center was started in 1994, developing from a series of discussions with legislators and extension personnel, as well as many other people concerning what could be done to encourage new farmers, according to its website.

“The Beginning Farmer’s Center really focuses on farmer succession,” Baker said. “We work with farming families to help them prepare their children to be successors. We have a lot to do with Iowa State students as there are quite a few who come from family farms or live in rural Iowa and have interests in pursuing farming.”

Baker said the Beginning Farmer’s Center has multiple programs dealing with farming such as the Ag Link seminar, as well as a newer program, Farm On, which matches older-generation farmers with beginners.

Baker described Farm On as a database in which information about retiring farmers who do not have any heirs to carry on the family business, is compared to the information put into the database about beginning farmers who might have a desire to pursue farming but lack the financial means.

Baker also said there are usually students who are interested in Ag Link, which is a seminar for ISU juniors and seniors who have an interest in joining their family farming operations after they graduate.

“Last year we had about 12 students and their families join us for the seminar and we help them figure out how they want to enter into the operation,” Baker said.

The Farm Progress Show will be in Boone again from  Aug. 26 to 28, 2014. It is always  hosted the Tuesday through Thursday the week before Labor Day.