PASCO -- Some came to shop, others to see and many to schmooze.
Day one of the Real Ag 2010 Convention and Trade Show drew hundreds of farmers and agribusiness people to TRAC in Pasco. The event, sponsored by the Pasco Chamber of Commerce, filled TRAC's exhibition hall with a menagerie of information booths and the building's arena with a fleet of heavy machinery, including tractors, dozers, trucks and tankers.
Richard Tennis, a 62-year-old hay grower, spent Tuesday morning in a pesticides seminar.
"We have to have so many credits in five years to maintain our license to buy chemicals," said Tennis, who farms north of Pasco. "It's an ongoing education thing we have to do."
He spent the rest of his day perusing equipment, checking out booths and catching up with old friends.
"Some people you don't see even when you're three or four miles from them because you're so busy," he said.
Martin Pierret uses agriculture shows like Real Ag to compare notes with fellow farmers. The 40-year-old wheat farmer likes to see how much his fellow growers pay for fuel, pesticides and other products in their corners of the Mid-Columbia or beyond.
"It's a good way to network with other growers," he said. "Otherwise, you're on the phone or driving."
Juan Escalante, 50, attends agriculture shows to hunt for new equipment and new ideas.
"You see other people in the industry and you get to talk to them," he said. "You see experts in the field and you can talk to them."
Escalante, a farm unit manager on a Burbank-area potato farm, was mainly interested in equipment related to planting, tending and harvesting spuds. Although he didn't find many pieces of equipment geared for potatoes, he did spend a few minutes eyeing a towable water or chemical tank.
"I just like looking at equipment," he said.
Pierret, also an equipment enthusiast, examined a massive John Deere 8345-T tractor as he munched on popcorn as the agriculture show, which continues today, wound down at day's end.
"We test drove one of these," he said.
Once the joy ride was over, Pierret said he parked the six-figure beast and headed toward the used tractor lot. "It's beautiful, but it's out of our price range."
Pierret wasn't alone. James Miller, an 85-year-old retired farmer from Oregon, said his trip to the Real Ag convention was akin to window shopping at a department store.
"I'm just looking at all this new stuff I can't afford," he said.
Miller grew wheat and hay and raised cattle until recently turning his Pendleton-area land over to his son. The retired farmer -- "In other words, I work for my son and don't get paid" -- took a minute to consider the most significant changes he's seen in his more than 80 years on the farm.
"You don't have to sit behind a goddamn horse," the old man said.
Miller, who was accompanied by his wife, June, weighed the question further. "An ordinary mechanic can not fix the equipment anymore, with all the computer stuff inside."
Dave Harris, a 65-year-old corn farmer, agreed that agriculture equipment has evolved. He spent more than two decades in the farm equipment business.
"A 170-horse (power) tractor was a huge tractor," he said. "Now, you're talking 250-, almost 300-horse (power) for a straight frame."
Harris shook his head. "I have to come see what's new."
-- Drew Foster: 509-585-7207; firstname.lastname@example.org