This week I asked John, our swine sales specialist, to bring up a thought provoking subject to everyone. Recently, he has been traveling all over the midwest to trade shows promoting the company and the swine industry. He has brought up a very interesting question that he took from all the shows he has attended…maybe not what you would think, check it out and let us know what you think!
Winter Pork Trade Shows across the Midwest – A different perspective 25 years later
Recently, I have attended or exhibited at 4 trade shows put on by the state pork associations. Back in my office this week, I have been going through my notes, listing the new people I meet and talked with, and the relationships that I continue to build with the people I have known from the recent and the past. I’m jotting down notes about those conversations; PCAI, dose concentrations, breeding techniques, extender technology and optimizing efficiency and production in boar studs, Ovugel, PRRS and PEDv. These things have been my life for the last 20 years. These industry “key” words are what have built my career, the main topics of conversation for a “boar stud guy”. But, then I caught a note I wrote down, “What happened to the shows I remember as a teenager?”
I must give a little background before I explain what that question means to me. I’m a West-Central MN country boy. I grew up on a multi-generational, diversified farm with a 300 sow farrow-to-finish operation, corn, beans, wheat, 300 head beef feedlot and a bunch of cousins either visiting or working on the farm. I also had the privilege of having a dad who was/is passionate about the swine industry and sat on boards and committees for as long as I can remember. It’s because of him that going to the Minnesota Pork Congress was a big deal. I got to stay in a hotel, with a pool, walk the tradeshow floor for 2 days and hang out with people talking about pigs! There wasn’t anything better! The Minneapolis Convention Center was full of people, booths, pickups and trailers, manure spreaders and free stuff! But, most of all, kids just like me, walking the aisles asking questions or waiting their turn to run for a county or state ambassador position.
Now, 25 years later, I’m one of those guys in the booth at these shows. And I’m wondering if there is a kid walking down those isles like I was, excited to see what was new and what I could talk to dad about on the way home. Yes, the industry has definitely changed over the years. There aren’t too many 300 sow farms left. And the bigger the farms get, the less decision makers there are as well. Oh, and there is that thing we call bio-security that has changed, as well, over the years. But, the biggest thing I noticed was the lack of young people walking the floors. Sure, there was a group of FFA kids at each show, or maybe an Ag teacher that brought their class for a few hours. Let’s face it; the attendance at these shows has dwindled. Is it because the families don’t come anymore? Is it bio-security for our units? What are these tradeshows worth to the exhibitors and the people that attend them? Can we as an industry use these state shows?
I think we can and should. As a manager or owner, we want to be efficient and productive; it’s what makes us the most money. So, why not use these winter shows for just that! Can we send some core people to a seminar and to walk those trade floors to bring a new product or idea back to the farm to make us better? Do you have a son or daughter that has a passion for the industry? Or does somebody that works for you have a son or daughter with that passion? We are in a drought of young people joining the swine industry. Would taking a winter vacation, to your state association’s Pork Congress, with your family, or sending someone from your staff with their family be a benefit to your company? If the attendance at these shows stays low for the years to come, will there be winter trade shows to go to?
These questions can be answered only by you for your operation. Least, we can’t forget what our state association, and the NPPC and the Pork Board are doing for us as a pork producers. We all have a voice, an idea that needs to be shared or something that can be learned to make us better! Even though my duties to the industry have changed and the conversations I’m having are much different, what I want to know is “What happened to the shows I remember as a teenager?” What do you think? I am interested to hear your thoughts!