STATESVILLE, N.C. — The Southern Farm Show in Raleigh on February 1-3 is the place to be for anyone working in agriculture, forestry, or construction. The largest agricultural exposition in the Carolinas and Virginia helps farmers and others in the industry stay abreast of the latest equipment, implements, technology, and services.
“It is THE annual marketplace for farmers,” says David Zimmerman, the show manager.
“The Southern Farm Show is an awesome networking spot,” adds Maggie Hamm, Carolina Farm Credit senior vice president and chief marketing officer. She should know; 32 years ago when she was working in a booth for N.C. State, a conversation led to a position at Farm Credit, where she has been ever since. The show also offers plenty of opportunities to hone skills or gain important certifications through a plethora of educational sessions.
David and Maggie share these tips for getting the most out of the show.
- Take time away from the farm and go! A lot of farm couples and families attend the show together. “If they see something they need, both can ask questions and make a decision together,” says Maggie. “It’s also just a nice way to spend the day away from the farm. We see lots of families there. The little kids, especially, love to sit on all the tractors.”
- Review your farm goals and needs before you go. “All of the major tractor and implement dealers that serve the Carolinas are at the show. You can research things online and talk to people on the phone about farm equipment but at the show you can look at it and kick the tires and gain a better understanding before you buy something. Despite the electronic age, this show continues to be important,” says David.
- Spend more than one day there if you can. The show is jam-packed with all things agriculture. With more than 400 exhibitors that represent about 600 manufacturers, there is a lot to take in. If possible, review the schedule online beforehand to get an idea of how you want to spend your time. “Upon arrival, a good approach is to make the rounds the first day, make a list of people or booths you wish to spend more time in, and then go back to those the second day,” advises Maggie.
- Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes. The show covers the entire N.C. State Fairgrounds. In addition to all the buildings and five tents being filled with exhibitors, presentation space, and other activities, there are plenty of exhibitors outdoors to visit.
- Talk with the vendors and gather information. “Learn as much as you can, pick up the information to take home, make notes on what you may want to learn more about and who you want to reach out to later,” says Maggie.
- Attend the 17th Annual Agricultural Development Forum. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler will deliver the annual State of Agriculture address at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, in the Holshouser Building. In addition, the forum will include an economic outlook and discussion about the impact that the war on Ukraine has on North Carolina’s agricultural industry.
- Participate in association meetings. Several associations and commodity groups have their annual meetings during the show, which are good times to catch up and network with others across the state and region.
- Expand your knowledge. Take advantage of the numerous seminars and presentations. Attend continuing education classes if you are a pesticide applicator.
- Revel in past, current, and future agriculture leaders. Thursday, Feb. 2, is FFA day, which gets infused with the energy and enthusiasm of agricultural students. On Friday, Feb. 3, the Tobacco Farm Life Museum sponsors a breakfast with the commissioner where a long-time leader in agriculture is recognized along with the award presented to the Innovative Young Farmer of the Year. “This is a nice award because you’ll have the opportunity to hear more about what this young farmer is doing on his or her farm. It makes you feel good about the future of agriculture,” says Maggie.
- Seek out the tried-and-true and learn from new show features. If visiting the Southern Farm Show is an annual tradition, you know that most of the exhibitors have the same spot year after year. “People take comfort in that,” says Maggie. As the show manager, David says he always likes to add new features as well. Among them:
- A focus on the industry’s concern about workforce development. Several different groups will be on hand to talk with FFA members about careers in agriculture, the training needed, the qualifications, who is hiring, and earning potential. In addition, Be Pro, Be Proud, a workforce development initiative that introduces students to technical careers through virtual reality experiences, will open its large, interactive, display-on- wheels for Southern Farm Show visitors.
- USDA will host workshops about Farm Service Agency programs on the first day of the show.
- The kick-off breakfast on Wednesday morning will feature a representative from the American Farmland Trust, focusing on the concern about the loss of farmland.
- Enjoy the entertainment. Every year since 1978, Farm Credit Associations of North Carolina have sponsored Brothers ‘n’ Bluegrass, which play at various times throughout the show. The bluegrass venue is a popular place to take a break and enjoy a cup of coffee and the music. It’s also a popular meeting spot. Other fun events include a lumberjack show at various times, the FFA Truck and Driving Competition on Thursday, Feb. 2, and the Southern National Draft Pull and Coon Mule Jump in the Hunt Horse Arena Friday night, Feb. 3.
- Visit your friends and meet new ones at the Farm Credit booth. Put on your old Farm Credit hat and stop by the Farm Credit booth to exchange it for a new one, designed just for the show. Learn about products that may be helpful to your operation. We look forward to seeing you!
Admission and parking are free. The show runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, and Thursday, Feb. 2, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3. Find information on accommodations, driving directions, a daily schedule, a map, a list of exhibitors, and other details at the Southern Farm Show website.
–Leah Chester-Davis, Carolina Farm Credit