HERMISTON, Ore. — The 43rd annual Hermiston Farm Fair debuted Wednesday at its new home at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center with a series of lectures on potato research in the Columbia Basin. And despite setting out more than 200 chairs in two meeting rooms, space was still limited to standing room only.
It is a testament to how much the event and trade show has grown over the decades. When the Farm Fair was created in 1974, its original location was at Thompson Hall before moving into the larger Hermiston Conference Center. Now, the agricultural showcase has moved once again to EOTEC in search of expansion.
Phil Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center and member of the Farm Fair Committee, said having a bigger building means they can host more vendors and presentations, which in turn draws more people to learn about Eastern Oregon’s farm industries.
“This is a great place,” Hamm said of EOTEC. “We have more sessions and more opportunities for learning.”
One of those additions included Wednesday’s first-ever seminar targeted specifically to small farmers. The lineup featured talks on beekeeping, how to apply pesticides without harming pollinators and integrating chickens onto a small farm.
Colleen Sanders, who coordinates the Umatilla County Master Gardener Program for Oregon State University Extension Service, organized the session and said she was impressed by the turnout. In particular, she said there has been a growing interest in bees over the past few years, both as pollinators and for making honey and beeswax.
Likewise, chickens can help out small farmers not only by producing eggs and meat, but by naturally tilling the ground and controlling garden pests such as slugs and snails. Chris Schachtschneider, livestock extension agent for OSU in Umatilla and Morrow counties, led the discussion on poultry while Andony Melathopoulos, with OSU’s Pollinator Health Extension Program, talked about basic beekeeping with the group.
The overall goal of the small farm seminar, Sanders said, was to provide something for people who may have felt left out of the Farm Fair in the past.
“A lot of the aim of the Farm Fair is those large producers,” she said. “We wanted to target those people with smaller acreages and more diverse production.”
Other additions to this year’s Farm Fair lineup include a livestock management seminar led by Schachtschneider, and a second session on growing cereal crops such as wheat and canola. Both are slated for Thursday afternoon from 1-5 p.m.
Along with more room for experts to share research, EOTEC has made way for more vendors to showcase their wares at the trade show. Sixty businesses are on hand to discuss the latest in farm technology, and tools to increase yield.
Richard Scott, with Elmer’s Irrigation in Hermiston, said it seemed like more people were checking out the booths than in previous years.
“It’s been pretty positive,” Scott said. “I think they’ve done a nice job on this building. It fits the bill quite nicely.”
Kalie Davis, manager of the SAGE Center in Boardman, noticed that with more space, people were more inclined to stop and have longer conversations without feeling like they were in the way or being herded around the room.
“It’s definitely easier to navigate in here,” Davis said.
Kevin Cochrane, retail account manager for DuPont in Kennewick, said this is his first year attending the Farm Fair. And though he never experienced the event in the Hermiston Conference Center, he said plenty of people were excited about the new setup.
“It’s a comfortable spot to be,” Cochrane said. “It’s a lot larger, with room to grow.”
The Hermiston Farm Fair continues Thursday and Friday. EOTEC is located 1705 E. Airport Road.