Q&A with Dennis Edwards

By Abby Dunn

Dennis Edwards, 63, is committee chairman for the New Mexico Ag Expo, which wrapped up its 12th annual event last week in Portales.

Q: How long have you been involved with the ag expo?
A: Eleven years. I ran the exhibitor reception for probably five years. Then for a number of years I was the chairperson for the hospitality room, where we have a room set up with all types of refreshments and snacks … for the exhibitors so they can get away.

Q: In what ways has the ag expo changed in the past five years?
A: Well for one thing, it continues to get larger. (And) it is becoming, I think, more sophisticated in the things it does, the quality of the seminars.

Q: When do organizers get together to begin planning for next year’s expo?
A: It was over with (on Wednesday), but I would say in about another week we’ll have a wrap-up meeting about what went well, and what didn’t (and) what we can do for next year.
And then about 30 days after that, we’ll have another (meeting) to start the preliminary work for the coming year. Then the full committee will probably start meeting about six or seven months before next year’s (expo).

Q: What is it about the Portales expo, compared to similar shows, that keeps exhibitors coming back year after year?
A: Well the largest one is in Tulare, Calif., but we’re really the only major ag expo in the state of New Mexico. There’s ones that I’d say are just for dairymen. There’s a New Mexico Cattle Growers (convention), and they have exhibitors.
But you know, we really cut across the board as far as agriculture is concerned. We have farming, ranching, and dairy.
So we have about 150 different exhibitors, and some of them come from many parts of the United States, and I think that’s one of the many things that make this expo successful. We draw about a 100-mile circle, as far as visitors.

Q: Year after year, it seems everyone comments on the harshness of the weather during the expos. Last year it was wind, this year it was snow and rain. Ever think about moving the show to a later date?
A: Well you know, it’s one of those things that’s a negative. A lot of people would like to see the expo moved to a later date because we face that weather thing all the time. And they’d like to see us have it on a weekend.
Unfortunately, we can’t do that, because one of the reasons we’re successful is that we have it at a time when exhibitors are going from one show to another, and most of the big shows are on the weekends. If we have our show in the middle of the week, we can attract a lot of people that we couldn’t keep otherwise.
Same thing with the date: We would love to move the show to March or April, but the problem there is, it’s the time of other shows, and secondarily, it’s when many people are out in the fields (on farms).

Q: Have exhibitors changed in the past few years?
A: Not a lot. We have a solid core of exhibitors that come back every year. And then we’ll lose a few every year, but we pick up new ones every year. There’s 10 days before the show, and we’ll be sold out of positions for exhibitors, completely sold out.

Q: Were there any particular exhibitors that attracted your attention this year?
A: There’s always something that attracts my attention. There’s always something real high tech. It’s just becoming so sophisticated. You have tractors that have (satellite) guiding systems on them … You have some of the upgraded types of fertilizers, hybrid seeds that are developed … So it’s always interesting every year to look at some of the new things that come in.
One of the things that was new this year that I think will have a great impact on us over the years will be the new U.S. animal identification plan. We had Dr. Clay Mathis here who spoke on it. That’s something that we’re all going to be impacted from. You’ll have a steak, you’ll know what ranch it came off of.

Q: Do you think this animal I.D. plan is a good idea?
A: Well you know, there’s a cost associated with it, but it’s going to happen inevitably.
Probably over a period of years, some of the positive impact will be not having countries shut off the purchase of U.S. agriculture. We could better isolate the scares we’ve been having (such as mad cow). Buyers from foreign countries will be more comfortable.
I think in the long run it will (be good).

Q: So were you pleased with this year’s expo?
A: I had one person come up to me and tell me they enjoyed our show more than the one in Tulare. Tulare is so big; it’s almost become a fair.
People enjoy our show because we do so much from a hospitality standpoint, and people really feel welcome, knowing that we really care about them, and we want to make it a good experience.

— Compiled by Abby Dunn
CNJ CORRESPONDENT