When you think of a farm equipment show, a motivational speaker talking about personal development might not spring to mind.
But it’s exactly what women who attend Agri-Trade said they wanted to see at the popular Red Deer event.
“Attendee surveys brought a strong message that there were a lot of women in agriculture who would appreciate more content specific to them,” said David Fiddler, manager of the equipment expo.
Agri-Trade, which for several years has sponsored two students to attend the annual Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference, was approached by conference founder Iris Meck about working more closely together.
The result is a presentation entitled ‘Focus on the 90%,’ by Saskatchewan entrepreneur and motivational speaker Darci Lang from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Nov. 10. It’s an interactive, participatory-style event where women can learn and network, said Fiddler.
“(It) is about effecting change, finding solutions, and innovations in leadership,” he said. “She challenges people to take a look in the mirror and say what’s good; what do we have that we can change; and how we can use our focus to change what is around us in our work and our personal lives.
“She’s got a lot of humour and really connects to her audience. She’s got quite a style.”
The event, which is included with admission, isn’t just for women but “will give farm families a reason to come to the show,” said Fiddler, adding seating is limited.
While checking out equipment is the big draw for many, Agri-Trade has always been more about networking for two women who farm in central Alberta.
“I’m not nearly as focused on the (machinery) as my husband might be — it’s just not my forte,” said Allison Ammeter, who farms near Sylvan Lake and is past chair of Alberta Pulse Growers.
Connecting with farmers and “Twitter friends” from across the province is invaluable, said Ammeter, adding much of that happens at the pulse commission booth.
“Most of the commissions ask for farmer directors and advisers to put in booth time,” she said. “A lot of farmers want to talk to other farmers. I love having people stop and ask random questions.
“Sometimes it’s somebody asking you how to cook with pulses; sometimes it’s somebody asking about a new variety; sometimes they want to tell you about some weird disease. I absolutely love the variety in talking to farmers at a commission booth.”
Sarah Hoffmann agrees.
She manages Alect Seeds, a pedigreed seed farm near Three Hills, with her parents and spends a lot of time at the booths of seed companies that have lines that she retails.
“I’m there to talk with my reps, but I’m also there because potential customers might wander by,” she said. “If they’re looking for feed barley, I can tell them about the feed barley seed I have. It’s like an informal marketing opportunity for me as well.”
More and more conversations are taking place on social media or by texting, but chatting in person builds deeper relationships, she said.
“If you make that face-to-face connection, later on they have an idea of what you are looking for and you have an idea of what they can offer,” said Hoffmann. “That just seems a little more real than only talking on the phone or only emailing.”
She often lets her spouse and father go off on their own (“the equipment side of things is more their interest”), but likes to have “a hands-on look” at equipment she might be purchasing in the future.
A few years ago, the family was looking to upgrade their seed treatment system. They saw the prototype at Agri-Trade of the one they wanted and subsequently purchased.
“When you actually see it, that actually helps you ask better questions about (the product).”
And as a woman, she is usually well received at booths, she added.
“I can’t remember a time that stands out, maybe subtly, but nothing that stands out.”
Ammeter, who likes to check out “new inventions,” has had a similar experience, as well.
“This is always a matter of who the exhibitor is,” she said. “Some are great, some not so much. I do find if I ask intelligent questions, they answer me seriously. If I hang back, they hang back.”
Ammeter said her Agri-Trade experience has evolved over the years.
“One thing I have noticed, is that my role has changed at farm shows as my children have grown,” she said. “When they were in the young to middle years… I did my best to corral my children through, letting them ask questions, collect pens and notebooks, and climb on equipment.
“Now that I can go sans kiddos, I can actually focus on my own interests. I used to go to Agri-Trade to see what was different — things I’ve never seen before. I find, now the kids are grown, I divide my time between the products I know and I want to know more about, and the ones that are like, ‘What is this? I’ve never seen it! What’s it for?’”
But it’s the casual conversations with other farmers that makes Agri-Trade so valuable, said Ammeter.
“That’s the beauty of networking. Of course, women offer different perspectives to the same issues sometimes.”
“It’s as much of a networking opportunity for me as it is seeing specific products,” added Hoffmann. “I don’t think it’s any different for me to connect with other women than it is with men at these events.”
Agri-Trade runs from Nov. 8-11 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Nov. 11 when the event wraps up at 3 p.m.). For more information visit www.agri-trade.com or follow it on Twitter @agritradetoday (use the hashtag #agritrade17).