New exhibitors, diverse speakers headline Ag Show

The Islands Agriculture Show, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7-8 at the Cowichan Exhibition, is celebrating the International Year of Family Farming in 2014.

Workshops and a trade show offer the agricultural community and other interested Valley people a glimpse into the complex world of agriculture today.

The Islands Agriculture Show is an evolving event.

Last year, the Alberni area was the featured farm community, but this year the IAS will hold a welcome reception instead of showcasing a single area, according to show Vice-President Kathy Lachman.

“The reception will be invitation only and will celebrate the history of family farming. We’re in the process of making up some nice displays for it now,” she said.

Meanwhile, everyone is gearing up for the show.

“There are lots of new exhibitors this year as well. There is a great roster of them. Some folks come year after year: they just find the show so valuable.

“On the trade show side, we tend to get the same folks, of course. There are a finite number of people who service the agriculture sector. But we always fill our trade show floor and we are always so thrilled that companies and businesses support us year after year. It’s amazing to see.”

Exhibitors include agencies such as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the BC Chicken Growers ad the BC Egg Marketing Board, many agriculture-based businesses and financial organizations. Where the Island Agriculture Show tends to get the most variety year to year is in its conference sessions.

This series of speakers and workshops is extremely popular. Most conference sessions are less than $15 per person to register.

“We have a great lineup of sessions for our farmers include Merle Good, who is our keynote speaker. I’m really looking forward to his session,” Lachman said.

Good graduated from the University of Alberta with a bachelor of science in agriculture economics.

His expertise is in the area of taxation and business arrangements and he has been the provincial tax specialist for the Alberta Agriculture Ministry throughout his professional career.

In addition, Raf Korkowski from Community Futures Cowichan is one of a group of panel speakers for a session on alternative funding.

Korkowski will be joined by representatives from Vancity Savings and Farm Folk City Folk.

“The most popular session so far for registrations is definitely Richard Bullock who is from the Agricultural Land Commission,” said Lachman.

“Of course, there has been a fair amount of news lately about potentially what could happen to the ALC and the land reserve. I know folks are concerned and wanting to know what’s going on in ensuring that our agricultural land is protected is filling up quickly.

“Folks have some good opinions about what should be happening with that. Generally, the consensus seems to be leave it alone but we’ll see what Mr. Bullock has to say at what I think will be a full session,” she said.

At the Islands Agriculture Show, Friday is Young Farmers Day.

“We are so excited every year about that because we have the school kids come through. And they create such a wonderful energy in the place,” Lachman said.

“It is neat. They are enthralled. We have Farmer Vicky and Daisy the Cow and they do stage presentations all day on Friday. And the kids just love Farmer Vicky. She does an amazing job.

“And we also have the Poultry in Motion display and we always have other activities for the kids to do. Last year, they made bookmarks and they have planted seeds. There are always other things for them to do. So we really encourage the kids to come out Friday and celebrate farming.”

While school children come in their classes to the show on Friday, families come through in large numbers on Saturday.

Show organizers have been discussing over the past year or so the idea of moving the conference around the island but Lachman was coy about what kind of decision has been made.

“We do have an announcement on that but we are not announcing it until the second day of the show so you’ll have to wait,” she laughed.

“The whole idea of the show is to move it around so no matter where you live you get to go to a show nearby to learn about agriculture. It’s definitely a mobile thing.”

When this year’s event gets underway, members of the Valley’s 4-H clubs will be a part of it, according to Lachman.

“We are actually celebrating the Year of Family Farming and it just happens to coincide with the 4-H centennial this year,” she said. “Marion Davis of 4-H is amazing. She brings her 4-H kids to the show. They help clean up, they help bus the rooms and during the welcome reception they help welcome the guests. They are a lot of help to us. 4-H is very much involved in the show. We are so happy to have them.”

The event itself supports 4-H by donating the money raised at coffee sales and this year Vancouver Island University will top that up with an additional donation, according to Lachman.

Trade show hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Adult admission is $5 per person while children get in free.

A full schedule of the IAS Conference sessions and registration information is available at the website. Registration includes admission to the trade show and a welcome reception.