Farmers love to talk about the weather, and those attending the World Ag Expo in Tulare last week were no different.
A Canadian cold front forced growers, exhibitors and students alike to bundle up against windy conditions, but it didn’t freeze their enthusiasm for the largest agriculture equipment show in the world.
Framed by a backdrop of the snow-laden Sierra Nevada, the sprawling show on 2.6 million square feet attracted tens of thousands of people from across the globe.
Citrus farmers Marlin and Michelle Hiett made the drive from Kingsburg after running wind machines for frost protection the night before. They attended the annual prayer breakfast, then made their way through the grounds.
“Depending on the weather, sometimes farmers don’t want to come out,” Marlin Hiett said. “It’s the right time of year to work the soil. But we love to come here to meet friends, support Immanuel School’s food booth and look at all the equipment. It’s definitely more technology-oriented now, yet farming is still working the soil and growing crops. That hasn’t changed.”
Guests watched autonomous tractors make loops around expanded exhibition space, test new software applications for their farming operations, climb in tractor cabs and gawk at electric vehicles.
Other highlights included the opportunity to watch a live ultrasound demonstration on a cow, take a “ride and drive,” attend numerous seminars or take a seat on one of several agricultural tours happening throughout the county.
John Garza, who owns a trucking business in Fowler, arrived to scout out new products. “I’m seeing what’s out here and looking at what’s new for trailers and trucks,” he said. “I just want to be aware of what’s available.”
At its inception in 1968, the event was called the California Field and Row Crop Equipment Show, then for 10 years the California Farm Equipment Show. In 1979, the words International Exposition were added to the title, and in 2001, it was christened World Ag Expo. Regardless of its name, the show has been the place to network and showcase new equipment and inventions.
This year was no different, as evidenced by the expo’s announcement of its top 10 new products. Those included smart sprayers that use visual-recognition technology to reduce off-target or excessive spraying, flying fruit-picking autonomous robots, a new mobile app for seeding efficiency and a “smart irrigation” pressure-compensating heavy wall drip line that allows growers to vary spacing between emitters, delivering water to plants, not the areas in between.
The theme of this year’s World Ag Expo was “Taking Care of Ag Business,” and exhibitor Rod Galvan was there to do just that. He said he hoped to attract growers and dairy farmers to his first-ever World Ag Expo booth as a manager for the Fresno-based office of Emcor Services.
“We are trying the show to see what we can get out of it,” he said as people streamed by. “We can cool or heat anything, including people, products and animals. In agriculture, energy savings is important, especially on dairies, and that’s where we come into play.”
Also at the expo for the first time was Aaron Shew with Acres, a desktop and mobile land research platform. It was originally designed as an internal tool for land investment company AcreTrader and was launched for the public in October. It gathers information from government databases and allows users to access 150 million parcels in the country. There, viewers can compare sales data and review crop history to soil and water data.
“Our mission is transparency in ag land transactions,” Shew said while handing out free socks to those who downloaded the mobile app. “Sometimes that information can be hard to see, and we are working on changing that.”
Those who use the platform include farmers, investment firms, land brokers and lenders.
On Wednesday, thousands of local school children made their way to the World Ag Expo for a day of touring booths and connecting with those in the agricultural industry. Spreading the word about events that promote agricultural education was Butte County Farm Bureau Executive Director Colleen Cecil. She gave a presentation in the seminar trailer about hosting an Agribee, a define-and-spell event for fourth and fifth graders.
Cecil is encouraging other schools, FFA chapters, agricultural organizations or county farm bureaus to host an Agribee. She said she would like to see enough participation that a state final could be staged in the future during World Ag Expo.
“Kids are amazing sponges, and they absorb everything,” she said. The event ends up teaching entire families about agriculture, as parents help students memorize agriculture terms. “Even if just 10 schools participate,” Cecil said, “that’s two finalists from each school and 20 students who know a lot more about agriculture.”
Seminars—including topics such as groundwater monitoring, export venture financing, dairy feeds and a panel discussing growing hemp in California—were recorded and will be available online at worldagexpo.com.
Plenty of children and parents could be found in a livestock demonstration pavilion, where the Western States Beefmasters Breeders Association demonstrated a pregnancy ultrasound. The Beefmaster is a breed of cattle favored for its temperament and extreme temperature hardiness.
Petting a 17-year-old sleepy show cow named Miss Piggy who was adorned with a tutu and crown was Arianna Henisey, 8, of Lancaster.
“We come every year to World Ag Expo,” said her mom, Heather. “We don’t miss it.”
Asked if she liked the animals or equipment better, Arianna screamed, “All of it!”
Preparations are underway for the next World Ag Expo, set for Feb. 13-15, 2024.
(Lisa McEwen is a reporter in Tulare County. She may be reached at [email protected].)