After a roller-coaster couple of years in the agricultural sector across the Prairies, organizers expect a renewed sense of optimism at the 2013 Manitoba Ag Days, coming off one of the best years in recent memory.
The three-day event, which will run 9 a.m to 5 p.m. from Jan.15-17 at the Keystone Centre, marks the beginning of the ag year for many producers.
"Ag Days is the largest indoor agricultural show in North America," said Kristen Phillips, an Ag Days board member and a Brandon-based regional agronomist. "Our tag line is this is ‘Where the ag year begins.’ We have everything that is agriculture and related to agriculture under one roof."
More than 35,000 visitors are expected to attend the free event which will feature 12-acres of ag swag from more than 500 exhibitors, ranging from farm machinery to crop insurance.
This year the show boasts almost 50 speakers from all walks of life, highlighted by CBC’s newest "Dragon" David Chilton, who will be the keynote speaker. Chilton, who is on the hit television show "Dragon’s Den," will speak Jan. 15 at 11 a.m. on a variety of topics including current events, building a business and his book "The Wealthy Barber Returns."
Other speakers include David Drodz, Frayne Olson and JP Gervais, who will all speak about market opportunities. University of Winnipeg Prof. Danny Blair will speak to producers about climate change, CanFax’s Brian Perillat will talk about the beef market and several other speakers will cover topics ranging from crop diagnostics to soybeans, and precision planting to extending the grazing season.
Celebrating its 36th year, Ag Days has grown considerably since its inception as The Weed Fair in 1978, when producers came together to discuss possible solutions to weed problems. The show will also feature a new set of hands at the helm, as last year was the 13th and final year Owen and Pat Beevers managed the show, making way for Dufrense’s Jonathan and Christine Roskos to take over this year.
"They are doing a fantastic job with the show this year," Phillips said, adding that Jonathan Roskos has been co-chair of the event for close to a decade.
The show, which also features 15 new agricultural inventions, is a major boon for the city.
"The show really draws so much for the city," Phillips said. "The hotels are full and obviously all of those people are going out and eating in Brandon, buying gas and other things, so we know we have a huge economic impact in the city."
Organizers work with Brandon Tourism to ensure the 1,399 hotel rooms in Brandon are used as efficiently and effectively as possible, but like previous years some visitors to the show will have to stay in neighbouring communities as all the rooms in Brandon are already booked up.
"It’s always busy for Ag Days and we could always do with a few more rooms during this time of year," said Lois MacDonald, manager of the Riverbank Development and Tourism Services.
About 280 people have been accommodated through the centralized waiting list through Brandon Tourism, but another 50 people still remain on the list, according to MacDonald.
"It is a very big show and it’s so important to Brandon," MacDonald said. "We continue to work at it and even during the show we’ll communicate with the show office and put up if a hotel does happen to have some rooms open up."
Ag Days begins with a kick-off breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 15 at the Roadhouse.
For more information, visit agdays.com