LONDON, Ohio — The early crop harvest kept farmers in the fields instead of at last week’s Farm Science Review, as attendance at this year’s Farm Science Review was 124,122, compared to last year’s crowd of 138,014.
The unseasonably warm weather — Columbus set a new record when temperatures hit 92 degrees Sept. 23, the final day of the Review — likely also played a hand in the smaller crowd. And show visitors and exhibitors were encouraged to leave early Wednesday because of a line of severe storms and high winds headed toward London. The brunt of the storm missed the Molly Caren Agricultural Center, but there were several smaller tents that collapsed or were bent by the whipping winds.
According to event officials, Tuesday’s attendance was 45,396; Wednesday, 52,390; and Thursday, 26,336.
Numbers aside, exhibitors were pleased with the quality of the contacts they made at the show.
“Farmers are in a buying mood, or will be as they learn more about their yields as they harvest,” said FSR Manager Chuck Gamble.
At the Harold’s Equipment exhibit, owner Harold Neuenschwander was pleased with the quality of the visitors.
“There was no negative talk about milk prices,” he said. “We were really encouraged.”
Likewise, Rich Geiser, district sales representative for Brock bins, said the traffic was lighter this year at the Review because growers were harvesting crops, but the farmers he talked to were more positive.
“It’s been a good 2010.”
“The farmer attitude is very positive. They don’t have to fire the dryers up this year.”
And, accordingly, the people stopping at the Brock booth were more interested in storage than dryer units, Geiser said. “Everybody’s talking storage, more storage.”
He expects to see a steep decline in dryer sales in 2011 as a result of this year’s growing season.
Jim Boak, regional sales manager for Salford Tillage and Seeding Systems, said the early harvest lowered attendance at the Review, but sales were high.
He added the good prices, good yields and dry conditions are just what the farmers ordered.
“It’s the perfect storm for agriculture,” Boak said.
He added farmers are actually getting ahead for the first time in several years because they are able to get their tillage completed and consider planting cover crops.
“It helps down the road with soil and drainage quality,” Boak said. “Farmers will be able to reap benefits from this year for the next two or three years and it will provide early farm income next year because the early wheat planting.”
Reps from John Deere were happy to show their 8R series tractors, which this year featured the most technologically advanced 8 the company has built.
Improvements include active command steering, a feature that provides tighter steering control on road, and adjusts in the field, to reduce fatigue on rough terrain.
The same tractor also offers a touch-screen monitor, allowing for auto tracking capability, and reports to the time spent idling, under load and other information back to the farm office. It also can be diagnosed from the dealership, resolving problems without the need to send a technician.
It’s all part of “the rise of the smart machines,” said Product Marketing Manager Bill Weber.
Another feature, an exhaust filter, helps Deere meet government mandates.
“Frankly, when you run these machines, they are producing less pollutant than they have in past, or in air we breathe every day,” he said.
At the Case IH display, simulations of what it’s like to drive and operate the machinery were a big draw, as participants sat behind the wheel of a disconnected cab seat that was still connected to the main tractor, via an “umbilical cord,” allowing farmers to drive the tractor, without actually taking it anywhere.
Territorial Sales Manager Zach Hetterick said the Magnum and Steiger tractors were a big draw, because of improved fuel efficiency, emissions compliance and longer life expectancy. A new arm rest allows the operator to control many of the tractor’s functions from what amounts to a hand-held palm control.
Even the tillage tools were popular for Case, including a vertical tillage tool, which is designed to till the first couple inches of soil, compared to conventional discs, which cut deeper. The blades, Hetterick said, help cut stubborn cornstalks, which have become increasingly durable over the years.
On the lighter side, Deere and Case showcased their utility vehicles — Deere’s Gator, and Case’s Scout.
Deere beefed up its Gator by adding a 50 hp engine, along with some new lights and suspension improvements, to make it handle like a small automobile, but with enhanced off-road performance.
Mark Clodfelter, of Deere, said the same Gator reaches speeds of up to 44 mph, making it “the fastest Gator we’ve ever made.”
Deere’s biggest overall change is in the computer-based technology, including the GPS system. Though expensive, farmers want it, because it helps improve efficiency.
“We know that the (farmers) need to be able to control their input costs, so we’re doing a lot of things to incorporate all of our GPS stuff onto all of our machines,” said Mike Henkins, manager of shows and exhibits for Deere.
Rod Bowman, vice president of Woods equipment, said business is really picking up compared to last year.
“I think we hit the bottom, it’s just going to be a painful climb out for the economy,” Bowman said.
He added most company’s inventory is very low but most are ramping up for the economy to take off.
Vermeer Equipment also reported good sales and an upbeat atmosphere among farmers.
Mark Branderhorst, product specialist for Vermeer, said the Review’s visitors showed a positive attitude and were serious about buying.
He said the cattle industry is strong and since the majority of the company’s business is hay, Vermeer is confident about the future.
“If they have cattle, the cattle have to eat and that means they are looking for handling hay this winter. It means they are interested in buying,” Branderhorst said.
As more people become interested in gardening and hobby farming, Larry Krystowski of Land Pride sees increased interest in his utility equipment.
At this year’s Review, rotary tillers and seeders were a popular item. They are well-built and attach conveniently to small-size tractors.
He met one customer who wanted some equipment for community gardening plots in England.
Krystowski, territory manager for Land Pride, said his region was selling about 70 tillers seven years ago when he started. Today, that number has climbed to 400.
Next year’s Farm Science Review will be held Sept. 20-22, 2011.