The weather is clear, the crowds have arrived and the exhibitor list is as big as ever as Manitoba Ag Days kicks off.
Exhibitors met the bar set last year during the 40th anniversary event. The show expanded both its footage and exhibitor list after opening up the over 19,000-square-foot Brandon Curling Club for booths.
The show topped 540,000 square feet and over 800 booths this year.
Show manager Kristin Phillips expects that space to stay open for the next five years after signing an agreement with the curling club.
“One unique thing about Ag Days is we are free admission, free parking, you don’t have to register and the seminars are free to attend,” she said. “Not many shows in the country will do that and so, I think that is why we are Canada’s largest indoor farm show and we’ve been so successful.”
It is the “Year of the Young Farmer,” according to the Ag Days theme. A young farmers’ lounge was added to the floor plan, while a selfie social media contest promises a 10-day Cuban farm tour.
“The winner will actually go to Cuba and in the 10 days they’ll take in activities on farms,” Phillips said. “They’ll actually go and see what agriculture is like over there and then part of the reporting requirement for them is they have to come back and write at 2,500 word essay on the experience and what they’ve learned about agriculture in that other country.”
This year’s New Product and Inventor’s Showcase both have a full docket of products. Seventeen products will get their launch, with one earning accolades as Ag Days best new product of 2018. Two products will get similar treatment out of the 14 inventions on the showcase floor.
Outside the bull congress and trade show, already a draw both in and out of Manitoba, the show lined up 63 speakers and seminars. Manitoba Canola Growers, Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers, Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiatives and Manitoba Beef Producers all filled in a slate over the three days. Agronomy, maximizing yield, market updates and trade forecasts took up a slot.
Tuesday took a solemn turn as speakers looked to rip back the curtain on mental health in ag.
“I think it’s a very important part of any trade show,” Janet Smith, Manitoba Farm, Rural and Northern Support Services manager, said. “Most trade shows and agriculture are focusing on the production side of things. When you think about the word ‘agriculture,’ it’s those two parts of the word, agri and culture, and culture’s made up of people and when the people are struggling, so does the industry.”
Marsha Harris of Brandon University and fellow speakers Lesley Rae Kelly and Kim Keller praised Ag Days for adding mental health onto the schedule.
Canada’s largest indoor trade show is expected to dodge the wintery weather it has been known for. This will be the latest in a string of mild shows, Phillips said, although the days leading up to Ag Days have stayed frigid.
“Actually, the last three years have been milder Ag Days,” she said. “Move-in has been brutally cold, so the exhibitors move-in in this extreme cold weather, and then it warms up for the shows.”
This year’s show runs from Jan 16-18, 2018. Watch for more information from Ag Days 2018 in upcoming issues of the Manitoba Co-operator.