Spokane Ag Expo to attract thousands

Feb. 5—The Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum welcomes vendors and speakers beginning Tuesday to help inform and equip Inland Northwest farmers for the coming year.

The event has grown since 1978 to become one of the largest farm shows in North America, according to a release from Greater Spokane Inc., which puts on the event.

Massive tractors the size of homes were in place Monday, and the remaining square footage of the Spokane Convention Center was packed tightly with vehicles, farming equipment and seemingly endless tables of vendors.

Melisa Paul, show director, expects about 7,000 attendants. Of those expected, about 5,000 are patrons and 2,000 are representatives of the more than 200 vendors.

Paul said the event is vital to farmers in Washington and beyond.

“We grow over 400 commodities across the state,” she said. “It’s a true business-to-business trade show, and we’re proud to support the industry by bringing folks together.”

The three-day event will begin Tuesday. The exhibit floor will open at 9 a.m. and close at 4 p.m.

The “watering hole” will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. This area is at the Riverside Lookout, on the northern side of the building. It will include drinks, live music and a chance for attendees to network, Paul said.

Thursday, the last day of the show, both exhibit floor and watering hole hours will close earlier at 2 p.m.

Perhaps most anticipated will be speeches from industry experts.

At Tuesday’s start of the AgShow will be a climate report from long-term weather forecaster, Art Douglas.

Douglas has earned the nickname “The Weatherman” because of his accurate and useful predictions that Paul said many farmers depend on.

“He’s a big draw,” she said. “The (agriculture) community is nothing without understanding the weather. It has everything to do with when they seed, expected yields and how their crops will be affected.”

Paul anticipates around 500 farmers to hear the weather outlook from Douglas, a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at Creighton University.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Randy Fortenbery, professor and Thomas B. Mick endowed chair at Washington State University, will deliver an economic forecast of the industry.

Paul said Fortenbery’s annual testimony is valued by farmers.

“Our industry is heavily reliant on trade, so farmers need to hear about the economics at play, especially with the many uncertainties in the market right now,” Paul said. “Being a farmer is high risk and little reward, so its important to know when and what is coming down the pipeline.”

On Thursday, nearly a thousand students of the Future Farmers of America program will be in attendance. The nonprofit offers youth classes that promote agricultural education. This year, there will be a focus on the social media and marketing sector.

“Exposing youth to different industry pathways is really important,” Paul said. “We’ll hold fun keynote sessions with them and get them connected with potential employers.”

Around two dozen speakers will present in breakout rooms, covering topics including supply chain disruptions, crop diseases, bank lending and fraud avoidance.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the watering hole, live music will include two musical acts, Thirdavenue Payton Rae + Cody Norman and Kyle Mont Cunningham.

Free parking is available at the Spokane Arena where free shuttle bus services are available. Tickets can be purchased on-site or online at www.agshow.org.

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