By Mike Tomko
The weather could not have been more perfect. A sunny morning with temperatures in the low 70s as hundreds of people lined up in a field in Redwood County, Minnesota; corn and soybean fields spanning the distance in every direction. The crowd was there for two reasons; Farmfest 2021…and free pancakes.
It was the first in-person farm show for IDEAg, which runs Farmfest and Dakotafest, since the COVID-19 pandemic forced almost all public events to go virtual. This farm show was two years in the making, and everyone, it seems, was ready to get back to normal.
The line moved forward, pancakes were flipped onto plates, conversations were started, and friendships were rekindled among farmers and ranchers who had not seen each other, perhaps, since before COVID became a part of our everyday lives.
As I watched the crowd mingle, and as I dove into my own stack of pancakes, I was struck by the sense of community among the people attending the show. There was a common bond among the people here. They understood each other, even if they didn’t know each other. It was the same feeling two weeks later and one state over, at Dakotafest in Mitchell, South Dakota. The sense of optimism and shared goals could be felt at every booth and panel discussion.
Regardless of what each farmer grew, the goals and concerns were universal. Each wanted their farm to thrive and survive so it could be passed on to the next generation. To do that, the government needs to understand when to help – and when to get out of the way. Those sentiments were on display at several panel discussions during both farm shows. U.S. senators and representatives, governors and state representatives were there to hear ideas, discuss solutions and even take criticism from the people they represent. And, if someone didn’t get a chance to speak during a scheduled event, they could chat with an elected leader while standing in line for a pork chop on a stick, or in the thoroughfare between the hundreds of vendors. Very few places allow such close interaction with powerful leaders in government.
Great job to all of the kids who participated in today’s pedal Pull! There’s still time for your kids to qualify for state - sign them up by Gate 2 before 1 p.m. daily. #Farmfest #Farmfest21 pic.twitter.com/O7eDEoMK50— Minnesota Farmfest (@MNFarmfest) August 3, 2021
If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend Farmfest or Dakotafest, I highly recommend it. Of course, you’ll get the opportunity to kick the tires on the newest in farm equipment and see firsthand the latest technological advances in farming, but it’s so much more than that.
Farmers care about what they do, and willingly accept the responsibility of feeding the nation.
They don’t need me to tell them that, they live it every day. But, to gather in those shared values creates a bond and a stronger voice, ensuring the needs of farmers and ranchers are heard beyond the confines of the farm show fence.
Mike Tomko is a director of communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation.