It's all about ag at the World Ag Expo in Tulare

The Fresno BeeFebruary 7, 2014 

The World Ag Expo is a farmer's playground: More than 1,400 exhibitors blanket 2.6 million square feet of the International Agri-Center grounds in Tulare.

The three-day event that begins Tuesday — billed as the largest show of its kind in the world — is a sight to behold for farmers and non-farmers alike.

Expo visitors will see towering tractors, automatic milking machines, harvesting equipment, the latest in irrigation technology, and countless other products and services.

"It really blows my mind," said Megan Murphy of Visalia, a longtime expo visitor and now an exhibitor. "What they are able to do out there is really amazing."

Murphy says she can't imagine a February without the expo. Now in its 47th year, the expo is a hot ticket for visitors and exhibitors.

Expo officials say that over the course of the expo's three days, more than 100,000 people will attend, including representatives from more than 70 countries.

Murphy's company, Hammer Works, is a two-time new product award winner at the expo. The tool company won last year for its quick-release battery connector and this year it won for a zinc composite dead blow hammer.

"For us, the exposure that we get from the show is huge," Murphy said. "Our sales after the show increased by 45%."

Also hoping to do well is J.J. Dagorett, owner of Automated Ag Systems from Moses Lake, Wash. Dagorett has created a self-propelled platform where up to four workers can pick tree fruit. Dagorett, who also is a new product winner, said the platform is more efficient and safer than using ladders. The workers wear harnesses to avoid falling, and can pick at a much quicker pace, Dagorett said. "This definitely is more comfortable for the workers and it takes four people to do what it would take 12 people to do," he said.

Murphy said while the expo is more business than pleasure, she still enjoys cruising through the grounds and checking out the rest of the show: "I still love seeing all those big tractors."

Tractor and large farm equipment dealers will be spread throughout the grounds with plenty of vehicles to inspect and climb aboard.

This year, the expo is launching a new building called the World Ag Expo Arena where tractors and other equipment will be in action for visitors to view. Companies including New Holland, Case IH and Kioti will be using the showcase. The new arena is just southwest of the Heritage Complex on the agri-center's grounds.

Stephen Cunha, ag expo board chairman, said the new arena is designed to give visitors a close-up view of how the machines operate. "Folks can just sit back and relax in the bleachers and just watch the equipment go by," said Cunha, a Tulare County pistachio farmer and 37-year volunteer.

Cunha is one of the 1,000-plus orange-jacketed volunteers who make the expo possible. "Once you get involved with the show, it is hard not to come back and want to help," he said.

Along with a sea of farm equipment to view, visitors can attend free seminars that will address major issues in agriculture, including water, international trade and food safety.

Also available will be tours of the Valley's wine industry, dairies, packinghouses and citrus groves. The price of the tours ranges from $40 to $50 per person, lunch included.

Along with checking out the latest in farm equipment, visitors also can eat at one of 32 food booths that are run by local nonprofit groups, schools and community groups.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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