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Connections sown at ag expo

Farm show the spot to find customers, recapture memories

With a stand next to an auctioneer, Tim Miller wasn’t exactly looking for peace and quiet.

But being at the entrance of the 24th annual Fort Wayne Farm Show at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday had its advantages.

“We’re just trying to connect with customers,” said Miller, marketing associate for Beck’s Hybrids, which touts itself as the largest family seed business in the nation. “We sell corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa to farmers.”

The Atlanta, Ind.-based company specializes in hybrid seeds that enable crops to withstand poor weather conditions to produce higher yields.

“Our business has grown 10 percent every year we’ve participated in the farm show,” Miller said.

The agricultural exhibition, which draws about 30,000 people over three days, ends today. Organizers say the event contributes at least $2 million to the local economy.

Theo Jenkins says the ag expo’s worth goes beyond dollars and cents. The 75-year-old Fort Wayne resident said his parents farmed for more than 20 years in Michigan. The farm show is a way he gets back to his roots.

“I love it,” he said. “My mother and father always said that your yard reflects your character. That’s why even though I didn’t go into farming, I’ve always loved to garden and grow things.”

As a black person, he wishes more blacks would chose agriculture as an occupation, but “there are more than people would think,” Jenkins said.

His wife, Sharon, said she’s just glad her husband picked up a fondness for plant life.

“His collard greens are the best,” she said.

On Wednesday, more than 10,000 attendees – mostly from Indiana, Ohio and Michigan – contributed to a constant buzz of chatter, laughter and demonstrations.

Jamie Campbell was among the exhibitors. He sells power washers for farm equipment. Campbell’s company, Karcher of Delphi, sells products ranging from $1,000 to $12,000.

“That might seem like a lot, but when you’re buying a $300,000 combine, what’s another few thousand dollars to maintain it?” he said.

If you go

What: Fort Wayne Farm Show
Where: Memorial Coliseum
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today
Admission: Free
Parking: $4 main lot; $8 preferred lot

By the numbers

Here’s a look at estimated food sales at the Coliseum during the Farm Show:
Number of soft drinks: More than 10,000
Hamburgers: More than 600
Pizza: More than 500 slices
Orders of french fries: 400
Candy and desserts: More than 1,000 servings
Source: Memorial Coliseum and Aramark

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