Friday, 29 January 2016

Farmtech 2016 : My return after around 10 years

   I remember how cold it was the last time I went to FarmTech. January in Edmonton can be that way as we all know. The meeting rooms were small but the speakers were very good. I don't remember a whole lot of the content but the main speaker was an Australian who spoke on CTF(Controlled Traffic). My farming interests were way different back then as well. I was still in cattle and was just starting to embrace some of the new technology. Farming was evolving faster than the IPhone back then and new things  were coming on line almost monthly.
   This year leading up to the show I was excited to see how it had changed. Everyone I had talked to said the venue was way bigger and of course way more people. I wondered with it being bigger if it would be less personal and speakers less approachable. When I went last time I think only 3 or 4 from my community were there and this time I'm sure it was going to be around 20 or more.
   The twitter community was full of info leading up to the show as well, and this added to the excitement. Checking my twitter feed in the mornings while drinking my coffee almost always mentioned something about a presenter or one of the trade show offerings. #FarmTech16 became a go to hashtag to keep up with what we had to look forward to and often developed into good discussions that I would follow along. I knew that lots of the Ag.twitter community that I follow would be at the show and looked forward to meeting them in person.The app and website also helped to plan out the presenters I wanted to see.

   So Monday I made the 244 Km drive North up to Edmonton. It was way warmer than the last time at FarmTech and was quite happy to see less snow than in my own area. I checked into my hotel and decided to take a cab to pre-register at the expo center. I ended up not needing a cab back as I got talking to a fellow farmer about the show and after a few minutes was offered a ride back as he was staying at the same hotel. I was thinking to myself that only at a farm conference could this possibly happen. That evening they had a get together at the Art gallery and was very glad I went. The craft brewers they had were all very informative and used the barley I produce. Even the vodka and gin were made with Alberta Barley from Rahr malting in Alix! Some of the presenters and exhibitors were there and I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with them one on one. I got to meet Kristjan Hebert and hear his story of how he "fell into" the speaking gig and got some background on the type of person he is. After that I knew I had to get into his session to learn more. I talked with Kim and Himanshu from Farm at Hand who are always interesting and I really enjoy discussing tech and their app with them. Scott Keller was there with Tool Shed brewers and I was able to talk with them a bit about their partnership which is very interesting and very grass roots and they have a great story to tell. I met Kristine  Langlois who helps organize FarmTech. She puts in lots of time and effort and it was noticeable in how well everything went throughout the week.
   Day 1 started off with a family singing Oh Canada and went right into what I feel is the theme I took away from FarmTech, which is story telling. I had never heard of Terry O'Reilly but he did a great job. He is a great story teller and it was very interesting. Next I watched the panel of craft brewers tell their story and relay the passion for what they do. I went to the Canola AGM and then saw Scott Meers discuss Alberta bugs and forecasts of things to come, I always find him interesting as I like to learn how different bugs fit into what we do as farmers. I took in the 5% rule seminar and Kristjan Hebert did not disappoint, I walked away with lots of things I need to look at on my farm.
   Day 2 Oh Canada was a spine tingling event on the big screens of the main hall. Once again we learned more about telling our farm story from Charlie Arnott. The day included the Wheat AGM and  also the Pulse AGM which was fun as I was voted in as a new member of the board of the Alberta Pulse Growers. This was something I have always wanted to be a part of and am looking forward to an exciting year. The day ended with the Dekalb sponsored dinner and entertainment.
   Day 3 started off with a Zone 2 pulse meeting and I got to sit in and learn what my Alberta Pulse growers do in my local area. Then we heard from Doug Lipp of Disney U fame and some of his thoughts and ideas that he has learned working for Disney. It was very well done and relevant to Agriculture right now and how we need to work on our "brand" and tell our story in a better way. The meals were amazing throughout the show and we surely never went hungry.

   One of the great things throughout the 3 days for me was seeing others in our Ag. twitter community. These people are the ones I ask questions and learn from on a daily basis so I always enjoy meeting them in person. Gary Stanford (@senatrstanford) sat with me at the pulse AGM and helped me by giving me some pointers. I've met others in the past year like Tom Wolf and Allison Ammeter at the farm show in Red Deer and both made me feel like I was talking to someone I'd known for a long time. I ran into Louise Carduner (@LouiseCarduner) and Laramie (@EybenFarms) Monday night and sat with them and had a great visit. It was great to meet Jason Deveau for the first time AKA Sprayer Guy. I was able to talk to Jay Schultz (@wheatlanderJay) for a bit at the Wheat booth and many others like Devin(@Devmanwalkin) Sarah(@SWeigum) Curtis(@Freedom_Speech1) and Neil(@Bertsch) were from my area but really only knew them because of Twitter and now know them personally. I met many other great people this week, too many to mention in one story.
  It was a great week of learning and networking with other like minded farmers. It was an environment where I could talk farming and it was not only accepted but encouraged. It feels as though Agriculture in Western Canada is on the right track. We have acknowledged the fact that we can do a better job of gaining consumer trust. We are looking at new and better ways to be sustainable and environmentally friendly while still moving agriculture forward and now understand some of the reasons why consumers are looking to new food options.
   We will need to become better "Story Tellers" if we want to get the word out on how safe the food is we produce. Engage people in positive ways not confront them with facts that they have been told not to believe. We are all Ag-vocates and every time we talk to a consumer we need to convey trust and represent our industry as best we can. So lets go out and tell our story. Show the people of the world that farming has changed but farmers have not. Farmers, either big or small are still a group of trustworthy caring people who have great pride in the products they raise and produce and I know this is true because I met many of those good people at FarmTech 2016.