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Farmfest set for Aug. 5 to 7

Farmers have many interests, so Minnesota Farmfest’s lineup includes everything from farm safety and precision agriculture to political forums and a celebration of young farmers.

This year’s Minnesota Farmfest will be held Aug. 5 to 7 at the Gilfillan Estate in Redwood County.

Farmfest, one of North America’s largest farm shows, will feature 660 exhibitors in more than 1 million net square feet. More than 30,000 people are expected to attend.

The show has been growing 7 to 8 percent annually in the past five years, and “we’re doing really well again this year,” despite a downturn in crop prices and farm profitability, says Raymond Bianchi, senior director of expositions and events for the American Farm Bureau, IDEAg Group. The IDEAg group is a subsidiary of the American Farm Bureau, which bought Farmfest last year.

“The farmers doing well for us before are still doing pretty well,” he says, adding that lower grain prices have helped the livestock industry.

Corn and soybeans are particularly important to Farmfest. Sugar beets, produce, dairy and poultry also have a role, he says.

Some Farmfest attendees come to set up appointments with dealers. Others come to look over equipment, others to buy. “There’s an equal distribution of the three,” Bianchi says.

About two-thirds of attendees are from Minnesota. Most of the rest are from Iowa, Wisconsin and the Dakotas, he says.

Precision agriculture, of increasing interest to many farmers, “is huge for us. It’s a really big part of our show and growing dramatically,” he says.

Upwards of 100 companies at Farmfest will offer information or equipment involving some aspect of precision ag, including drones, Bianchi says.

Highlights of the show

The Governor Candidates’ Forum on rural Minnesota is set for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 5. Gov. Mark Dayton and other major candidates have been invited.

- The U.S. Senate Candidates’ Forum on Agriculture and Rural Issues will be held at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 6. Sen. Al Franken and other major candidates have been invited.

- The Congressional Candidates’ Forum on Ag and Rural Issues is set for 1:15 p.m. Aug. 6. Candidates from Minnesota’s first, second, sixth, seventh and eighth Congressional districts have been invited.

- A forum on farm program decisions and the new farm bill will be held at 1:15 p.m. Aug. 5. Panelists include a number of U.S. Department of Agriculture and commodity group officials.

- A forum on climate change and its impact on future ag production practices will be held at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 7. Several weather experts and ag officials will speak.

- An update on national ag policy will be given at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 6 by Mary Kay Thatcher, senior policy analyst with American Farm Bureau.

- The Farm Family of the Year Recognition Program will be held at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 7. Seventy-four farm families from across the state have been selected at the county level.

- Aug. 5 is Young Farmer Day. Activities include a 5 p.m. barbecue and a career fair that will allow University of Minnesota students and alumni to network with exhibitors.

- Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau, speaks at 1 p.m. Aug. 5.

Lodging, history

Overnight visitors might have difficulty finding hotel rooms within 75 miles of the show, Bianchi says. He recommends looking for rooms in the Owatonna, New Ulm or western Minneapolis areas.

The first Farmfest was held on a farm near Vernon Center in 1972. The event hosted the World Plowing Championship for the first time in the U.S.

The second Farmfest was held on a different farm and promoted as an ag festival during America’s bicentennial celebration. The event ran into financial problems because of bad weather and filed bankruptcy.

Later, a promoter bought the Farmfest name and produced Farmfest as an ag trade show.

In 1994. Farmfest moved to Redwood County, where it since has been held every year.

In 1997, Farmfest and Dakotafest, a sister event held annually in Mitchell, S.D., were purchased by Cygnus Farm Shows.