With the harvest over and the fall work complete, and the cattle sorted and ready for winter, farmers are ready to tackle tasks of a different kind. So November is a month for meetings and events.
Dominating the calendar is always the busy combination of Agri-Trade in Red Deer, and Farmfair and the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton. Both shows have entered new eras, and like any long-standing occasions, seek ways to keep what they offer relevant to their audience.
For Agri-Trade, under the leadership of show manager Dianne Smirl, the challenge is always bringing the right kind of exhibitors to attract the farmers, and enough farmers to keep the exhibitors returning. In an age where there are fewer farmers, who manage much larger acre numbers, that means exhibitors want to see the right kind of Agri-Trade visitor. They want to spend meaningful time connecting with existing or new customers.
Farmers want to look at new products and technology. But they also want to see each other and visit, because one of the greatest assets of agriculture is the people involved. Bringing it all together is no small task, and Smirl does it all with a smile.
I saw a lot of information-sharing happening on the busy Agri-Trade floor this year. One of the new features was a “modified indoor” space — putting a tent cover and heat over pavement by the Agricentre, to allow for more exhibitors. Although it takes a while for people to realize there’s another area to see, the exhibitors I spoke with there were happy to be part of the show, and warm!
As a member of the Agri-Trade advisory committee, our homework during the show is to check in with exhibitors in a designated area, to get feedback on the show. Overall, I heard from them that farmers were in an optimistic mood this year, although still cautious in their spending plans.
With grain prices off their highs, and some transportation and marketing challenges, plus the cost of new equipment, the idea of prudent, careful spending seems wise. Even though cattle prices are incredibly high, the days of the BSE bust are still fresh enough in many ranchers’ minds that they’re not going to extend themselves financially too deep just yet.
Another focus for Agri-Trade is how to attract and relate to the youth in agriculture. Young people were targeted in a new reception on the Friday of the show, hosted by MNP. It was an informal gathering, featuring the Alberta-based Prairie Storm Chasers. That’s a team of young weather watchers who are as passionate about weather as many of the attendees are about agriculture.
It’s also great to see the Agri-Trade scholarships given out each year, to students enrolled in agriculture programs. A portion of each Agri-Trade admission now goes that direction, as a way for the show to give back to the community and encourage youth in agriculture.
Up the road, which stayed relatively clear of snow during the week, Farmfair International in Edmonton saw a change this year. The show’s dates were condensed to the same week as the Canadian Finals Rodeo, which allowed for more crossover with the Heritage Ranch Rodeo events. Lots of folks were able to take in both styles of rodeo.
As a rancher’s daughter myself, it was fun to be able to see the Ranch Rodeo contests like team branding, sorting and doctoring. Cow sense, in both horses and ranch hands, went a long way to success.
A big congratulations to the San Emideo Ranch of Innisfail for finishing on top of eight very skilled outfits. Each member of the team received spurs for the victory. As well, San Edmideo’s Geoff Hoar received the award for the top working cow horse of the event.
There were also some local winners in the cattle show arena. The supreme champion bull was an Angus from Remitall Farms of Olds, while Rancier Farms of Killam garnered supreme champion female honors with their Simmental entry. As well, the grand champion bull calf in the Legends of the Fall competition came from M&R Cattle Company of Wimborne.
Of course, central Alberta was home to plenty of championship honors in the Canadian Finals Rodeo. I always enjoy being able to watch those journeys through the week as competitors get on a roll, or struggle, with the challenge and opportunity provided by the intense quest for the buckle in the season-end playoffs.
Being down behind the chutes to capture go-round winner interviews and absorbing the atmosphere is a highlight for me. Working the CFCW live radio broadcast of the CFR, with Duane Daines providing commentary, meant we had a bit of an inside track on the Sydney Daines barrel racing story. She was so excited to have Team Daines there in Edmonton on opening night: some of her teammates from the basketball and soccer squads she’s part of at RDC. For many of them it was their first trip to a rodeo, and a real eye-opener to the other passion of their talented teammate.
Both proud parents were excited to see their daughter’s success, but Duane, always quick with a quip, noted they’d been saving all their life for her college education, and she’d earned $44,000 in just a week of CFR! Duane, who’s been in a wheelchair all his daughter’s life, also recalled attending the CFR just before Sydney was born.
“It was my first trip out of the Glenrose hospital,” said Daines, whose back was broken in a rodeo accident that fall. “We took the C-train over, and the arena elevator was broken.
“I remember getting the chair stuck in a snowdrift. Cheryl was pregnant with Sydney. You’re kind of in a bubble in the hospital, and there in the snowdrift was when we looked at each other, and our new reality set in.
“We had a moment here this year watching Sydney win, when we both looked at each and remembered that instant.
“It’s all turned out pretty good,” smiled the always-inspiring cowboy.
Speaking of inspiring, I’m looking forward to once again being part of the FCC Forum in Red Deer Nov. 26. The speakers always bring big-picture inspiration to people involved in producing the food we eat.
This year’s lineup include The Wealthy Barber and Dragons’ Den member David Chilton, Olympic gold medallist Adam Kreek and performance expert Patrick Leroux.
One more note of accomplishment, Agri-Trend’s Rob Saik of Red Deer, who also serves as the Agri-Trade advisory committee chair, was just honored as Canadian Agri-Marketer of the Year by the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association.
Dianne Finstad is a veteran broadcaster and reporter who has covered agricultural news in Central Alberta for more than 30 years. From the Field appears monthly in the Advocate.