The tradition which began 60 years ago in 1953 still lives. Some leaders for Prairie Farmer Co. wanted to give advertisers a way to show off new equipment. The group held a show not knowing what to expect, and tens of thousands of people showed up in a cornfield. They watched tractors of the day pull plows, and learned what was new.
It caught on and this week in Decatur, Ill., it's now the premier outdoor farm show in the country. Some 600 exhibitors will show their wares. Some will give you a chance to actually test out their equipment in Ride and Drive areas. You'll find equipment that isn't even on the market yet. Some are prototypes. If the reaction isn't good, they may never make the market! You get to help tell them what you like and don't like about their latest and greatest equipment and products.
Many companies save their latest innovation for introduction at the Farm Progress Show. Farmers representing millions of acres are there. The farm press from all over the country is there. Even international visitors are there. Hopefully, you'll be there!
In the early days, shows had that special country feel because they moved from community to community. Staff literally built a show in the middle of corn fields. The last show in Indiana was at Lafayette in 2001. Now shows rotate between Illinois, this year, and Iowa, next year, at permanent sites. It was a decision I certainly didn't like, but it had to be made. Companies pour huge amounts of money into bringing equipment, displays and staff to the show. When weather wipes out a show, it's all lost. The Wednesday and Thursday wipe-outs due to heavy rain at Henning, Ill., in 2003 sealed the deal that to serve both customers and advertisers, the Show needed to move to a permanent site.
I would have loved for it to be in Indiana or on the Indiana-Illinois border. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. But Decatur, Ill., is not Siberia. It's a three hour drive, all interstate, from Indianapolis. Some of you drove longer than that to shows in northern Indiana when the show was in Indiana!
It's still a show for Hoosiers, too. Indiana kids will compete for prizes in soil judging. The Indiana FFA will benefit from the Titan Tire auction Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. Many Indiana companies will be there, including CountryMark, Hurricane Ditcher, Beck's Hybrids, Equipment Technologies with Apache sprayers and many more. Bill Field from Purdue University and his staff will help man the Health and Safety Tent. Purdue's Bob Nielsen will appear in the Pioneer tent on Tuesday, speaking at different times.
I'll be there, looking for new products, shaking hands and attending special media events to learn about new products.
After 60 years, the Farm Progress Show has grown up to meet the demands of a changing agriculture. It now has creature comforts, too. But it's still the premier outdoor farm show, bar none. Come find out for yourself!