Thursday, July 31, 2014

SCHLAGECK: Back from the Western Farm Show

By JOHN SCHLAGECK, Kansas Farm Bureau | 3/7/2014

Billed as having nearly everything an agribusiness professional would need or want, this year’s 53rd edition of the Western Farm Show lived up to its slogan. More than 20,000 farmers, ranchers, school children, FFA youngsters and urbanites attended the three-day event at the American Royal Complex in Kansas City.

Farmers and ranchers spent hours walking around the 400,000 square feet of displays of machinery, buildings, livestock equipment, tools, feed and seed among the more than 500 exhibits.

Veteran Douglas County farmer Rex Slankard has been coming to this farm show since it started in 1961. Like so many of his peers, he attends the annual event to walk around and see what’s new.

Slankard likes to compare the equipment and machinery to what he farms with. He’s seen plenty of changes in agriculture and farm machinery during the last 50 years.

“Everything is getting to be so much about computer technology in farming today,” Slankard said. “I’m getting too old for it. I’ve got to bring my grandson along to figure the computers out.”

All kidding aside, the veteran producer believes farming is better with the new technology. Today’s equipment lasts longer and is more dependable.

With technology like GPS a farmer can use the same tracks in his field every year and that cuts down on compaction, the Douglas County producer says. Planting and putting on herbicides and insecticides is more accurate and saves on production costs.

Coffey County stockman and hay producer, Jim McNabb traveled 200 miles round trip to attend this year’s event. His son, Lee, accompanied him as well as his grandson, Max.

For the McNabbs and many other farmers and ranchers within a 300 mile radius, the Western Farm Show is a family tradition.

“It’s enjoyable to take the family on a road trip off the farm and look at the latest equipment,” McNabb said.

The biggest differences he sees during the 30 years of attending the show is the cost of the tractors, balers, buildings and other farm machinery.

McNabb is all business when checking out the new haying equipment. He puts up between 500 and 1,000 bales each year to feed his hungry herd during the winter months so idle chit chat is out of the question.

“There are just too many people here,” McNabb said. “Every once in a while you run into someone you know, but you can talk to them at home.”

While most of the farm show-goers include farmers and ranchers from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, more than 3,400 high school students affiliated with FFA attend the three-day event, Jeff Flora said. He works for the SouthWestern Association and produces and manages the Western Farm Show.

Many people in the Kansas City area grew up on a farm or still have parents farming, Flora says. They drop by to look at the farm equipment and show their children what’s happening in agriculture.

“This show provides a great opportunity to talk to manufacturers and suppliers without experiencing the pressure of buying such equipment,” he said. “It kind of blows some of us away seeing what’s going on in this industry today. It’s like Star Wars kind of stuff in some cases.”

John Schlageck is a Farm Bureau commentator, specializing in agriculture and rural Kansas.

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