‘Tis the Season

Tis the Season from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

‘Tis the season for farm shows, friends. Fa la la la la. ‘Tis the season for my annual article about farm shows, in which I always seem to grapple with the good and the bad, their usefulness and their fluff. Because it’s all there at a farm show: actual solutions to real problems right alongside products I’d call snake oil if I were feeling ornery.

Perhaps you’ve already been to a farm show this year. If so, I hope that my annual shot at making sense of them might give you some perspective on your experience and help you off the fence regarding any lingering decisions (or suspicions). What I have to say about farm shows is probably most useful if you’re planning to head to one in the near future. Because like a successful trip to the grocery store, a successful trip to a farm show is most likely to happen with a little prior planning.

Farm shows can be dizzying. There is new technology of all kinds to be perused and discussed, from new equipment to new seed tech. And the pitches are often practiced, oh so very appealing, and oh so very purposefully aimed right at your biggest fears and shortcomings.

It’s easy to get sucked into that black hole, to let your fear and pain respond. Easy to wind up making a purchase or decision that isn’t in your best interest.

So prepare. Before you head to that next show, stop for a second and make yourself a small list. Consider five things that you might theoretically be interested in changing in your operation. It doesn’t mean these things aren’t working—just that they might be improved. Then go to your show, not to aimlessly peruse, but to seek out possible solutions to those five things. It’ll keep you on track and keep you honest, and offer a filter through which to pass all those great-sounding pitches.

And prime your tester. Farm shows offer real, solid solutions right alongside some phony, flimsy non-solutions. There are a lot of good people at farm shows right alongside a lot of individuals who just want to get their hands in your pockets. Your ability to test and filter their messages is key to a successful trip to a farm show. For example, if you meet a person claiming that they can do your soil samples faster and cheaper—that’s a nice-sounding pitch, but turn on your tester, friends. If soil samples could be done faster and cheaper, wouldn’t they be done that way already? The answer is yes, friends. The answer is that soil can only be sampled faster and cheaper at a significant loss of quality. You already know that if it’s too good to be true …  Just be sure you take that logic to the farm show with you.

Farm shows are also full of energy. Everyone wants to be your pal.  And some of the people you meet at a farm show truly would make for great partners. Others won’t. I’m not a student of psychology, but I know well from experience that there’s at least one way to tell which group a person might end up in. If someone is claiming to be the big answer, to be the only person who can do x for you, walk away. That person doesn’t want to be part of your team.

Farm shows are far from minefields, but they present an environment that can be tempting and overwhelming. Couple that with product and service pitches that strike at your biggest fears and quickly become more painful than helpful. However, with a little practical preparation you can make a farm show work for you, and avoid those people who have ideas otherwise.