Northwest Ag Show grows in the rain

of Amy Patrick Jim Heater, one of the founders of the Northwest Agricultural Show, helps move a Caterpillar tractor at the show.

Each year, come the last week in January, organizers of the Northwest Agricultural Show hope for rain.

“If it is good weather out, you know where farmers are going to be,” said show Manager Amy Patrick. “They’re going to be working on their farms and not at the show.”

Whether it is the date, the rain or something else, something seems to be working for the organizers of the Northwest Agricultural Show. Now in its 46th year, the show is the second largest agricultural show on the West Coast, behind only the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California.

Around 10,000 people attended the show last year, a 15 percent increase over the previous year.

The Northwest Agricultural Show was started by Patrick’s father, Jim Heater, and Lloyd Martin in 1969. The two attended the Tulare farm show, which was also just starting at that time, and took home some ideas of what they wanted their show to look like.

Initially held at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, the show in the first two years consisted of an exposition of farm machinery and supplies and a handful of seminars. When it was 2 years old, the Oregon Horticultural Council was formed, and the show expanded its schedule of seminars, a formula it maintains today.

The Horticultural Council is made up of the Oregon Nut Growers Society, the Oregon Association of Nurseries and the Oregon Horticultural Society.

“What folks were finding with the different groups is that everybody was trying to put on their own meeting,” Patrick said. “And there was a lot of redundancy between the organizations and what they were trying to do. It was felt that maybe by joining forces and working with the trade show, they could reap some benefits of being a bigger organization: Bring in some speakers that maybe individually the groups wouldn’t be able to pull.”

The organizers moved the show to the Portland Coliseum in the early 1970s, before moving it to the Portland Expo Center in the late 1970s. Organizers decided to hold the show in late January because farm schedules typically were slowest at that point in the year.

“With all the different kinds of agriculture that go on, especially here on the western side of the state, it is about the only time of year you can kind of say, OK, nobody should be doing anything,” Patrick said.

“That’s why we always kept it in January,” she said. “And then we just cross our fingers for rain.”

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