Attendance, interest grow

Mark Rozin/Capital Press Arnold Knox, a grass seed grower in Harrisburg, Ore., checks out a Caterpillar Challenger MT 955B on display at last yearÕs Willamette Valley Ag Expo in Albany, Ore. , on Nov 18 In addition to equipment and exhibits, the annual show offers professional workshops and educational presentations.

Exhibitors line up to display their variety of wares in ninth annual Expo

By JOHN SCHMITZ

For the Capital Press

Despite a blustery economy, companies and organizations from around the West are gearing up for the ninth annual Willamette Valley Ag Expo, Nov. 17-19 at the Linn County Fair & Exposition Center in Albany, Ore.

"The Ag Expo is coming together just as well as last year," said Scott Ingalls, Expo manager. "We will end up with about the same (150) or a few more exhibitors.

"I think vendors are doing what they always do, maybe trying new marketing strategies and working to keep prices competitive. I am not hearing any particular gloom-and-doom kinds of stories or fears, though."

Ingalls said that as of Oct. 21 there were only about a half-dozen exhibitor spaces left.

"Over the last four years we have had a pretty constant increase of vendors of about 10 percent." Admissions -- 4,000 last year -- have been climbing at a 10 percent clip, too, he said.

"It will be interesting to see how much activity we have," said Craig Pope, owner-operator of Agriweld in Monmouth. Pope is one of the men who founded the Expo nine years ago.

"We're feeling very positive with where we are with it," Pope said in late September. "We have quite a list of new vendors this year."

The 2009 Expo features several new attractions.

One is Dustin Ballard, a former Marine captain who specialized in teaching soldiers how to use protective gear to fend off chemical, biological and nuclear attacks in Iraq.

Ballard, now an agronomist with Wilco Farmers, will discuss the similarities between protecting against contamination from pesticides and from war materials. One of the big mistakes both soldiers and ag workers make is thinking "it won't happen to me," he said.

Ballard will be joined by Wilco veteran agronomist Dale McCready.

Dale Wagasuki, a Minnesota man whose failed heart was resuscitated by an alert teenager using a portable defibrillator, will also have a booth at the event. Starting Jan. 1, Oregon law requires that certain businesses have portable defibrillators on hand. Wagasuki will discuss the law and demonstrate various portable defibrillators in the booth of Wilson Safety, a division of Wilson Orchard and Vineyard Supplies.

For the first time in Expo history, the Linn Soil and Water District will bring its annual meeting to the event. Keynote dinner speaker on Nov. 18 is Barry Bushue, Oregon Farm Bureau president and vice president of the American Farm Bureau.

Also new this year, Oregon State University Extension agent Melissa Fery will talk about income-earning ventures on small farms.

Always a well-attended feature at the Expo is an eight-hour block of workshops on pesticide handling and use. Those attending the event this year can take four credit hours of CORE classes (CORE I and CORE II) and four credit hours of general classes.

Farmers with pesticide applicator licenses are required to take 16 hours of classes every five years. Four of the classes must be CORE oriented.

Also featured at the pesticide workshops will be a talk on how seed treatments help control grass seed diseases and how integrated pest management practices can reduce the need for chemicals.

Those with rust in their veins will again find a large display of vintage tractors and other farm equipment at the Expo. This year, steel-wheeled tractors made between 1913 and 1939 will be featured, along with dozens of other items.

Each year, part of the revenue derived from the Expo supports scholarships for Oregon college students majoring in agriculture.

Freelance writer John Schmitz is based in Salem, Ore. E-mail: johns6869@msn.com.

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