LONDON, Ohio—Even during a challenging year for farmers, the 57th annual Farm Science Review topped recent years’ visitor totals with its first-ever career fair, more than a hundred educational talks, and new technology.
This year’s late harvest boosted attendance at the farm show, which attracted 114,590 people over three days. Typically at this time of the year, many farmers are driving combines. Instead, some were eyeing brand-new combines and tractors displayed at the show, taking pictures of their children and grandchildren behind the wheel.
Under sunny skies and welcoming mild temperatures, visitors learned about the economics of producing malting barley, legal issues associated with growing hemp, the most common mistakes made by family-run farms, and tactics to reduce the risks of producing corn and soybeans, among other topics.
“During a challenging year, Farm Science Review provides a lot of optimism for those in the agriculture field,” said Nick Zachrich, manager of FSR, which is sponsored by The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
“Here, farmers can enjoy themselves and also learn how to improve their operations.”
Many of the educational talks at Farm Science Review addressed Ohio’s agricultural crisis in which persistent spring rain delayed or prevented planting on an unprecedented number of acres statewide.
Along with the tension that came with late or no planting this year and low commodity prices, unresolved trade talks between the United States and China, the nation’s top soybean buyer, are adding to the uncertainty.
“We have no idea what the timeline will be for a trade deal,” said Ben Brown, assistant professor of agricultural risk management in CFAES. “The longer we stay in this, the more concerned I get.”
Meanwhile, China’s demand for U.S. soybeans has plunged by about 50%, Brown said. One out of every three rows of soybeans used to go to China. Now it’s one out of 10.
Government payments to farmers to compensate them for the decline in soybean demand have significantly helped prop up farmers’ financial statements, Brown said during a talk on trade policy.
“Those payments are helping to alleviate some of the pain,” he said.
Sometimes families add to the pressures of farming by how they run their businesses, noted Jolene Brown, a professional speaker and author who gave a talk on the most common errors family-run farms make.
“We run as a family-first business and that means, ‘Don’t rock the boat and make Dad mad,’ ” Brown said. “If you want to be a family-first business, that’s OK as long as your business can be a hobby.”
The bigger issue for Aaron Coontz, who raises corn and soybeans with his friend, is finding additional work to supplement his income.
For the past three years, Coontz, who farms in London, has been looking for a job, ideally one in sales. So he was excited to see that FSR included a career fair this year. At the event, he had a chance to talk to employers and get some business cards of people he’ll follow up with.
Already Coontz juggles some occasional work landscaping, selling seed, and appraising equipment, but he’s looking for a more permanent position.
“The passion outweighs the stress of farming,” he said. “If it wasn’t something I was 100% passionate about, I would probably have quit years ago. I love it too much to give it up.”
(Mark your calendars for next year’s Farm Science Review, which will be Sept. 22-24, 2020)