Farm show an educational experience

Frederick and Anita Koch (bottom center and right) discuss Walinga's Agri-Vac products with visitors to their booth at the Northern Illinois Farm Show at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013.
Frederick and Anita Koch (bottom center and right) discuss Walinga's Agri-Vac products with visitors to their booth at the Northern Illinois Farm Show at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013.

DeKALB – Last week was the first time 6-year-old Kaleb Manley had ever attended the Northern Illinois Farm Show.

For the rest of  his family, and many others, it’s an annual event.

“This is his first time, but we come here about every year,” Don Larkin, a grain farmer from Minooka, said.

“We like to look at all the new innovations,” JoBeth Larkin said.

The family was among approximately 8,000 visitors at the 31st annual show, which was held last Wednesday and Thursday at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. Last year’s crowd was just under 7,000.

The purpose of the show is to bring area farmers, regional producers and agriculture-related companies together in a single location, said Samantha Kaplan, marketing manager of show sponsor IDEAg Group of Cygnus Business Media. The DeKalb show is the first of four major farm shows IDEAg hosts across the country every year. The DeKalb show is the only one of the four held indoors.

Although visitors come from all over the country, Kaplan said most of the visitors to the DeKalb show are from Illinois, Indiana, eastern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

“They come to see the latest and greatest products,” she said.

Farmer Earl Barnickel of West Brooklyn said he already has most of the equipment displayed at the show, but “I have to see what changes are made.”

“Every month, there are new improvements,” his wife, Marion, laughed.

As they discovered last week, there was a lot to see at the DeKalb show. With 250 exhibitors on both floors of the center there were dealers for just about every ag-related issue one could imagine – seeds, fertilizer, tires, equipment, parts, buildings, repairs, bank loans and so much more.

One large draw was the annual Pesticide Applicator Testing, sponsored by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Throughout the two-day show, there were a number of special presentations, many of them dealing with the current drought,

Following a keynote address by Brian Basting, a commodity research analyst from Advanced Trading LLC, community agriculture educator Russ Higgins of Morris talked about the “Drought Implications on 2013 Fertilizer Decisions.” Rockford meteorologist Candice King discussed the “Long Range Weather Outlook,” after which was a panel discussion on “Cover Crops in Northern Illinois.”

With only 59 percent of normal precipitation, Higgins said 2012 was the second driest year on record (20.38 inches), after 2005 (20.11). Last year was also the hottest year since 1881, when weather records were first kept.

This past December alone, King said, temperatures were 8 degrees above normal, which she called “quite significant.”

King, who grew up on a farm near Ridott and is now a weather forecaster for WTVO-TV in Rockford, said that weather follows a pattern.

“It’s going to take some time before we get out of this,” she told the crowd during her seminar, in which she explained how the current conditions developed over time.

While she isn’t sure if she believes in global warming, King said she does believe in climate change, which affects the amount of moisture we get. Although she expects the current drought conditions to last at least through spring, she said the long-range weather outlook could change next week without warning.

“That’s how it works,” she joked.

The news, however, didn’t put most farmers in a joking frame of mind.

“My corn yields are probably off by 60 percent,” said Bob Miller of rural LaSalle County. “I’m just watching the weather and waiting for rain.”

If the area doesn’t get significant moisture in the near future, he and fellow farmer Randy Riebe said, they may switch from corn to soybeans.

Both men, who said they were attending their second show in four years, said they benefited a lot from them.

“We learned a lot,” Riebe said.

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