Huge crowds ambled through the 49th annual World Ag Expo in Tulare on opening day Tuesday, checking out everything a farmer might need from high-tech software to low-tech flagpoles.
The expo is the largest gathering of farm equipment and technology in the world. Spread out over 2.6 million square feet of the International Agri-Center, the event hosts more than 1,500 vendors. An estimated 100,000 people are expected to attend the three-day expo that ends Thursday.
This year’s show is benefiting from dry weather and mild temperatures, with highs expected in the mid-70s for most of the week.
Also expected to draw visitors is new technology aimed at reducing emissions on tractors, improving food safety and reducing water use. But not all the products being showcased are high-tech.
Mike Gilbert of Idaho has been coming to the expo for years, selling telescoping flagpoles. Gilbert says the poles are a big seller among farmers and nonfarmers.
“I had someone from John Deere buy 50 of them at one time,” Gilbert said. “So I never miss a show like this one.”
Along with acres of farm equipment, the expo features a wide selection of food booths featuring everything from Harris Ranch rib eye steak sandwiches to Dutch oven peach cobbler.
When you are in the heart of the largest milk-producing county in the nation, you better have something good to show dairy operators attending the World Ag Expo.
The event dedicates an entire pavilion to just dairy equipment.
That significance was not lost on the representatives of Afimilk, a global provider of dairy farm management systems.
“It is significant to introduce this new technology at the World Ag Expo,” said Kim Parr, spokeswoman for Afimilk.
The Israeli-based company introduced a new system that uses photoelectronic sensors to analyze a cow’s milk to prevent illness and maintain cow health.
Company representatives called it a “game-changer” because of its ability to provide real time data from a cow’s milk.
Veterinarian Aurora Villarroel, Afimilk’s application support manager, said the new system takes the place of several tests dairy operators routinely perform on their herds. Among the problems dairy operators are looking for is ketosis, a condition where the body begins to consume its own fat to produce energy. The condition is considered abnormal and consequences can lead to an impaired immune system, making the body prone to disease.
“This system is a cow translator,” Villarroel said. “It tells you what is going on with the cow, without having to wait for tests or signs of a problem.”
It works by running samples through a milk analyzer and milk meter that looks like a small water pump. The system costs about $3,000.
Tractor for a veteran
Tractors were a draw for many, including kids who clambered into the cabs of some of the shiny new machines to check them out and dream. For one farmer, though, a new tractor was more than a dream.
Julie Hollars, a U.S. Navy veteran and small farmer from Calaveras County, was selected by Kubota Tractor Corporation to receive a new L-series tractor, complete with tiller equipment.
Hollars, who served 20 years in the Navy, was selected as part of Kubota’s Geared to Give program that is run in partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The organization provides financial support and donated Kubota equipment to military veterans pursuing farming.
Hollars was recognized during a ceremony at the World Ag Expo. She was all smiles, sitting on top of the tractor she will receive.
“This really is a dream come true. I never thought this would happen,” Hollars said. “I would drive by the Kubota tractor dealer in my hometown and think about how great it would be to have a tractor.”
Despite operating a 13 1/2 -acre farm, called Farbotnik, Hollars did not have a tractor. She used a rototiller, a four-wheeler to pull a sprayer and a wheelbarrow to haul things in and out of the field. She farms a variety of fruits and nuts, including peaches, plums, pomegranates, cherries, walnuts, almonds, pecans, apples, figs and wax peppers.
“Whatever piece of equipment would start that day was what I used,” she said.
The new tractor will pay huge dividends for Hollars. She plans to increase the amount of her specialty Italian wax peppers. It is a variety that her grandfather grew and has developed a loyal following in her hometown of Vallecito, east of Stockton.
Hollars said her 68-year-old mother, Bea, was just as excited to win the tractor. The two women do all the farm work themselves, including harvesting.
“She had an asthmatic attack when I told her,” Hollars said. “She was so thrilled.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition also provided Hollars with a greenhouse to grow her seedlings. She was using a sunny spot in her bedroom to start her plants.
Kubota officials say they were wanting to do something philanthropic and found the Farmer Veteran Coalition to be a worthwhile project.
“Through our partnership with the FVC, we are investing in the future of farming by making a difference in the lives of farmers who give back to their local communities where our valued customers and dealers live and work,” said Tom Sieper, Kubota Tractor’s senior director and western division manager.