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Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017

Bringing farmers together in Kentucky

Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at 12:20 PM

If I hadn't seen it myself, I might not have believed it.

But there we were in the middle of a crowded area -- shopping elbow to elbow with others.

We couldn't walk in a straight line, and I found myself struggling to keep up with the happy shoppers who were drinking in all the sights, sounds and smells.

And they were smiling, really smiling. They were having fun.

No, it wasn't a group of women at an after-Christmas shopping spree or a Macy's sale -- instead it was my three farmers at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky.

It was then when I had what Oprah would call an "Ah-hah" moment.

Despite all their claims, it's not shopping or the crowds they hate. No, it's just shopping for clothes, kitchen items and even food that they despise.

But get them in a giant "shopping mall" with 1.2 million square feet packed with 850 different displays full of shiny new tools for the farm and their whole attitudes changed.

This "mall" had every tool, software package or machine you could think of -- including many of those items you never realize you need until you actually see them.

One of my favorites was a cultivator for vegetable crops that used a sensor and GPS to "see weeds." As the cultivator was pulled along the rows, it would move and only dig up the weeds, leaving the plant intact. (I was told it wasn't cost-effective for my garden.)

Other booths we passed were: Sinbad Glue -- even better than duct tape for the farm; Delta Grain Bag systems, to use in lieu of expensive storage bins and the aptly named Farmer Boy Ag supply.

With all that room, there was big equipment, too -- lots of it.

Some of the highlights included a grain cart that holds more than 2,000 bushels at a time (that is more than two semi-loads worth of grain) and a 48-foot mower that would take a huge tractor just to pull across a field.

Also represented were tractors and machinery ranging in size from 10 to 600 horsepower, along with any tool they could pull behind.

Needless to say, there was a reason my guys were smiling. All those shiny new toys in one place and it only took us two days of "power shopping" to see everything. (I'm still pretty sure we may have missed an aisle or two -- perhaps a whole building.)

And of course, as good shoppers often do, we didn't buy anything besides a meal or two. Instead, we packed three bags full of fliers and brochures to study at home. You never know when we might need Emu oil or the world's fastest lawnmower -- a Dixie Chopper.

Of course, this wasn't the first time I had been to a farm show. Almost every year we travel to Kansas City for the Western Farm Show, which also is packed with farm equipment of every shape and size.

We took my mother to that show at the American Royal Building for the first time many years ago. She was impressed and surprised at just how many businesses make their livings off farm families. Most people have no idea of the diversity or needs of farmers.

While I was at the national show -- which is the K.C. show on steroids -- I thought that same thing. The crowd of almost 300,000 people in five days was made up of farmers of all ages and every size from newborns to those more than 80 years old, although women were definitely the minority.

As we traveled on the shuttle, stood in lines and sat at large lunch tables, we talked to farm families from across the United States. It was then when I realized how alike we all are.

The weather, the markets and the large crowds dominated most of our conversations. I also realized that all these people -- and we were packed elbow to elbow most of the time during our two days -- were involved in farming.

And a huge majority of the businesses were American owned companies, mainly from rural areas. All these people, the browsers, the shoppers and the sellers are a part of a large network of agriculture and ag businesses that many people in the city -- just like my mother at one time -- have no idea even exist.

Going to the show confirmed my belief, that agriculture still is the backbone of America and especially the backbone of rural America.

It also confirmed my beliefs that farming in America is not all corporate owned -- not even close. In fact, the majority of the exhibitors were small businesses -- owned and operated by entrepreneurs who realize the importance of agriculture in America.

Judging by the people we met, along with the boots, the seed corn caps and the tractor t-shirts, there was no doubt the crowd was dominated by the 90 percent of us that are still family farmers.

And they were obviously having a good time just like my farmers.

Well, everybody except one little girl who seemed to have had enough, judging by her protests. Of course, it could have been she was upset by her brother's green and yellow t-shirt which read, "Will trade my sister for tractor."

Looking at the little boy's shirt, I could picture my own boys, just a few years ago.

It was then I had my second "Ah-hah" moment of the trip ... it was probably a good thing my boys never had sisters.

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