Guest writer: Doug Sattazahn
This time of year on the farm means cold weather, hard-starting engines and winter meetings. Those first two are rather unavoidable; the last one is a welcome break. If you’re not sure what I mean by winter meetings, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Many agricultural-related companies have events this time of year to educate farmers, showcase their products and/or just say “thank you” for your business. These meetings usually include a free meal of the ‘all-you-can-eat’ variety, which is the main selling point for many folks that attend these events. All in all, it’s a nice day away from the farm (between milkings of course) to socialize and maybe even learn something.
Some meetings are more worthwhile than others if you’re judging them on more than just the free food. For example, a bull stud meeting usually includes a lot of rah-rah for their bulls and showing how vastly superior they are to other A.I. companies through use of snazzy graphs and pie charts. This is all well and fine, but not a lot of useful take-home information. I find myself downing multiple cups of coffee at these meetings.
The same goes for open houses. You can get good discounts on parts and look at new equipment, but it’s mostly about loading up on donuts and “seeing who else is there.”
Feed and seed companies usually offer more educational speakers where I may actually learn something that I can apply to my own farm business. I’ve found it is beneficial to stay awake at these meetings to see what I can discover from the presenters and other people who ask questions. There’s still a self promoting aspect but they are trying to help you improve your operation.
Finally, there is the occasional workshop type meeting where you may even pay money to attend (gasp!). An example here could be a financial institution holding an event to help farmers better understand financial documents. These meetings are probably the most useful because you are actually interacting with the discussion and brainstorming with other producers to solve problems. The lunch here is more of an afterthought than the priority for coming in the first place.
Honestly, I enjoy going to any of the aforementioned meeting types. Anytime you get a group of farmers together, you’re bound to learn something new, and hear a good story or two as well. I take flack from my wife when I go to Shady Maple for the day while she goes to work, but what the heck, I’m still putting in eight hours of work. So I say bravo to any company that wants to have a winter meeting. I will be there for sure, and better yet if there’s a variety tray of donuts awaiting me.