January 16th, 2021

Optimism remains high despite challenges faced by farmers

By Lethbridge Herald on February 26, 2020.

Attendees and vendor representatives fill the floor space in one of the pavilions during the first day of the annual Ag-Expo Wednesday at Exhibition Park. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
The annual Lethbridge Ag Expo and North American Seed Fair kicked off at Exhibition Park on Wednesday, and will continue until Friday.
Despite a challenging crop year in 2019, and with unharvested acres left in fields from the so-called “harvest from hell” as well as potential ongoing problems with rail blockades disrupting grain shipments still ahead, the mood at the event was one of optimism for the 2020 spring planting season.
“This show is totally sold out with a waiting list,” stated Exhibition Park chief operating officer Mike Warkentin. “There is still increasing demand to get in here, and I think that is mostly driven by the technology and how that is changing. There are a lot of new vendors in here this year — over 10 per cent of our vendors are new.”
Not only does the annual event feature the latest and best in ag technology and agronomic science, it provides an opportunity for vendors and farmers to meet old friends, to create new business associations, and to do some deals, said Warkentin.
“I think Ag Expo has always been that final social gathering at the end of the off-season right before everyone gets back into the fields,” he explained. “There is a big community aspect to Ag Expo, and we certainly try to foster that as much as we can in the show. But the amount of commerce that happens at this show is also truly incredible.”
Alongside staples like North America’s oldest ongoing seed fair, Ag Expo is also offering a new attraction for guests this year — the SouthGrow Innovation Corner. Warkentin says having these two signature events as part of the overall Ag Expo really showcases and bookends the role of agriculture in southern Alberta’s past and its potential impact on the region’s future.
“The SouthGrow Innovation Corner is a significant addition to the event this year, and having a partner such as SouthGrow come into the event, and give that type of speaking opportunity to different industry leaders to talk about how southern Alberta is positioning itself on the global scene, is critically important to the future of agriculture and this region,” confirmed Warkentin. “This SouthGrow component is shedding a major light on (research, policy and development) initiatives happening in southern Alberta agriculture sector that not every person may have knowledge of.”
“The North American Seed Fair, (on the other hand),” he said, “is an ode to what this industry has been for 100 years or more in this region. We are the longest-running seed fair in North America, and it is something we pride ourselves on. It is that historical component that maintains.”
Warkentin said it is difficult to understate the importance of the Lethbridge Ag Expo and North American Seed Fair to agriculture in the region as a whole.
“I think in terms of economic benefit to the overall region it is probably our biggest event of the year,” he confirmed. “It is certainly our longest standing … It is a staple in the economic environment of the agriculture industry here in southern Alberta. Lethbridge and southern Alberta really are major players on the agriculture scene. The show gives us the opportunity to showcase that, and we look to grow that (showcase) into the future.”
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