Now that we find ourselves firmly planted in the middle of the Indoor Farm Show season, I was contemplating the relevance of Farm Shows. As I look through farm shows, it occurs to me that many vendors have not adapted with the times to understand what the point of the Farm Show has become. What I mean is, I wonder how many of these vendors realize that at least for a few days, their competition isn’t the dealer six booths down, and we aren’t there to sell seven new industrial widget busters. Our purpose for a few days is to help growers learn, plant the seeds of knowledge, and help them get their social media fix.
Whether we like it or not, we are all part of a demographic. And when it comes to farm shows, there is no doubt that the demographic skews to the older side than it does on social media. But, I will contest that in either case, whether it’s a user on Twitter asking about a product, or a grower at a Farm Show booth asking about the same product, both users are after the same experience. They have done some research on various products by the time they are engaging in a conversation and asking questions. My hope is that they have done like Mike Zwingman said in his earlier Reachout article. I hope they’ve narrowed their focus to a few things they want to invest time in learning about, and now they are digging deeper into the conversation.
This is where the similarities between a farm show and social media overlap. I will contend that the farm show was the second most popular social media outlet (after the coffee stop) from 1985-2008. The reason was, at the farm show, the truly savvy growers knew how to cut through the fluff and get to the brass tacks. You would see them circling, keeping an eye on the item they were interested in. And when somebody else would engage the vendor, they would creep closer. And then finally at some point, they would engage their peer and start asking questions. This interest was an almost perfect relationship from the vendor side because if I had a good product, I could watch and with limited participation, let my product and more importantly its reputation speak for itself.
Then came social media. Things such as Twitter appealed to so many of the people in agriculture because instead of 6 days a year having the opportunity to engage not just dealers, but other farmers who used the product you were interested in, you could do it dozens if not hundreds of days per year. The feedback was instant, and you could get a bigger section of American Ag at once than you could at even the biggest farm show. Social media and blogs started to dominate this need for the younger demographic.
BUT here is the deal. The truly wise grower knows that we need both of these things to fulfill the whole need. Only at the farm show we still see both demographics interact. When a Twitter user is talking to a grower that still has a flip phone at the CVA booth, I realize that I am witnessing an interaction and experience that may not have happened otherwise. And that is my take home for today. Farm Shows are different things to different people. Sometimes it’s a Day off for Mom while Dad takes the kids. Or a way to break up cabin fever for a couple. Perhaps you have brought your Dad with you to show him that solution you are looking for to solve your number one problem. And in all of those cases, you can find people and spaces at the Farm Show which can provide it. But I urge you to look past the Shiny Iron, the DeWalt Tool Sale, the Harbor Freight Tools, the Free Drawings, and Candy. Look for that opportunity to talk to somebody you don’t know. Take the opportunity to be the teacher and the student. Because like so many things in life, at the Farm Show, you can skate through and get done in an hour, or you can take it in as an experience that might lead to something that transforms your farm, and your license to operate.