Twitter is the new coffee shop for farmers, but there’s nothing like talking face to face.
Which is why John Kowalchuk is a faithful Agri-Trade attendee.
“The fact you can network and talk to other people about their experiences, I think that’s a big part that makes Agri-Trade what it is,” said the Rumsey-area farmer.
“You might be looking at something, and (another farmer) might say, ‘Oh, hey I’ve been using this for the last two years,’ and they’ll explain to you about it. You get that first-hand experience from them about it.”
Kowalchuk can point to a host of changes on his farm — from air seeders to yield monitors — that were sparked by visits to Agri-Trade. (He’s listed many of them on his blog: www.johnkowalchuk.blogspot.ca.) One of the more recent changes came the year he was looking at remote openers for his grain trailer tarp and chutes at one Agri-Trade booth. He talked to another farmer at the booth about the products.
“I ended up putting all that equipment on my trucks because of the conversation that I had that day with that farmer. He felt it was a good product and it really held up. The deciding factor (for me) was the first-hand information from another farmer.
“I usually spend more time talking to other farmers at the trade show than I spend talking to the people behind the booths.”
Often he’ll strike up conversations with complete strangers because the two of them will be looking at the same thing.
“You will just start discussing things, comparing pros and cons.”
Those conversations and having the chance to “bounce ideas off” farmers he knows can be invaluable.
“I know in the past,” Kowalchuk said, “I’ve been at different companies’ booths, you may have the trial information in front of you, but then you talk to another farmer. I’ve been convinced of growing different crops because of that.”
He said he’s also noticed that areas that are host to shows like Agri-Trade tend to have “more progressive” farmers.
“A lot of them have been quick to take on new technology and practices, because they see it so soon,” he said. “We get to see that (technology) all at the same time and learn about it. Then you are able to take it onto your farm and use it sooner than ‘the wait until your neighbour gets it’ approach.”
He also recommends checking out the booths of the commodity commissions.
“They are our front-line people. It’s interesting to go and discuss with them and to learn their take on how the relationship between the consumer and the farmer has evolved. When I talk to (the commissions) it’s to hear their ideas on how to talk to consumers. It’s become such a big thing.”
As a result of those conversations last year, Kowalchuk decided to get involved and is on the Alberta Pulse Growers board.
“I think as farmers it’s all our responsibility to portray ourselves in a good way,” he said.
Serving on a board has also opened up a new learning avenue.
“There is a lot of things (the commissions) are doing trying to advance the crops. A lot of new research,” he said. “It’s always fun to find out what they are involved in and see what our commission dollars we spend go to.”
Kowalchuk is active in the social media crowd, too, and finds Agri-Trade is a great place to interact with folks he’s met online.
“You kind of know people already from Twitter, and then you meet them in person you can have really good, frank, discussions,” he said. “I’ve had multiple conversations with different people on Twitter, and when you meet in person you can discuss things further, or discuss other things because you kind of trust those people’s opinions.
“You have that previous knowledge of where they are at. It’s given us this wider network of people to discuss farming with.”
Going to Agri-Trade and seeing everything from new seed varieties to the latest technologies, impacts the bottom line.
“If you’re not the kind to read through all the papers, and figure it all out, it would make a big impact on your farm. To be able to try it out and get, say 20 per cent increase in yield, that
has a big impact on your farm. There’s a lot of financial results from that, too.”
Agri-Trade runs from Nov. 9-12 at Westerner Park in Red Deer.