10 things you gotta do at the Farm Show.

Feb. 10, 2022 • Interesting Iron

farm show list

The Farm Show is back, baby!

It’s been two years since America’s farmers have descended on the Kentucky Expo Center. However, that’s all about to change. As I type, the parking lot is jammed full of all manner of equipment waiting to roll on to the expo floor. They’ve got the weekend to set up, and on Monday & Tuesday, the rest of the exhibitors will load in. Having done this once before, I can attest to the fact that the setup for the National Farm Machinery Show is something else. It’s somewhat chaotic, but by next Wednesday, it’ll all be as ready as it’s going to get, and the doors will open.

I know lots of you have done the Farm Show thing before, but every year, there are thousands who make their first visit to Louisville. My first trip was in 2017, and I remember how overwhelming it was. I mean, it’s 1.2M square feet of wall-to-wall exhibits! That’s a lot to take in!

This year will be my fifth year…sort of. More on that at the end.

At any rate, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and there’s a few things I always try to do when I’m in Louisville for the Farm Show. I mean, other ag media outlets have done a Farm Show first-timer’s guide – why can’t I?

So without further ado, here’s how to do the Farm Show – Interesting Iron-style!

How to do the Farm Show like Interesting Iron does it…

  1. Hit the big exhibits in the early/mid-afternoon.

    The most famous 4430 in Farm Show history
    This was one of the most popular tractors at the Farm Show back in 2020. Deere had MASSIVE crowds drooling over this 4430 all week long!

    The big booths from the manufacturers are always busiest in the mornings. Everybody wants to see the new stuff, the kids want to make sure they get the swag before it’s gone (spoiler alert: it’s never really gone), and the media types want to get in early to get the story so they can push it out in the afternoon. The result? It’s usually bonkers in any of the major exhibit booths (Deere, CNH, AGCO, etc.) in the morning.

    The power move? Go in the afternoon when the crowd goes for lunch. Traffic usually slows down a little mid-afternoon, and that’s often the best time to talk with sales and marketing reps. By then, they’ve had a minute to regroup, shotgun a Red Bull, and they’re good to go again.

  2. Don’t sleep on the small companies.

    There’s over 750 companies who’ll be at the Farm Show this year. Lots of ’em are small companies with pretty ingenious solutions for problems that YOU are dealing with! Go see them! They’ve worked hard to get their company off the ground, and they might have something that can help you! RSE Fabrication is one such company that makes some very cool, very heavily-built attachments to turn your skid steer into a monster. I’ve watched that rock picker at work before and it’s pretty slick! If their booth is where it normally is, you’ll find them near the West Wing entrance. Go tell Ryan and Lisa that I sent you!

  3. Go see what happens when carpet farming goes completely off the rails.

    farming the american dream display
    Chase & Colby’s “Farming the American Dream” display has changed quite a bit since I took this photo back in 2019. Check out the video below for a full walk-through. It was originally recorded as a Facebook Live session, and when I mention certain people by name, I’m answering their questions from the chat window.

    Ever wonder what would happen if kids never outgrew their carpet farming obsession?

    This. This is what happens.

    You end up with a highly detailed, custom farm display that takes several days to set up and tear down, and rides in its own 16′ Haulmark trailer! It’s a labor of love for lifelong pals Chase Long and Colby Counce, a couple of lifelong friends from Tennessee. They grew up playing with tractors, and literally never grew out of it! The craziest part? Most of what you see here is hand-built (including a handful of scratch-built tractors and other machinery), and it keeps growing every year! The last time I saw it was 2020, and at that time it was 40×8. However, I talked to Colby a day or two ago and it sounds like this year they’ve added another 2 feet to the length – and changed up the layout quite a bit.

    This is one exhibit that NEVER slows down. I’ve seen crowds stacked four people deep before! Chase and Colby are usually there, too, answering questions all day long! Super nice fellas, and they absolutely love this hobby!

    They gave me a guided tour back in 2019. Here’s the video.

    As you can see, it’s pretty amazing. Definitely worth the time.

  4. Learn how to use data to make better equipment-buying decisions…from Tractor Zoom!

    Kyle McMahon

    Kyle McMahon (my boss, and our CEO) is presenting on Friday at 1230PM. If you’re looking for equipment for your operation right now, or you’re interested in the nitty gritty of the supply chain issues and how it’s affecting the market, you’re going to want to sit in on this one. I don’t want to overdo the sales pitch, but I’ve seen him give this talk before, and it’s got a lot of VERY good buying advice. The best part is that it’s all data-based (we capture more auction results than anybody on the planet – over 80% of the market). Plus, you’ll get to see some cool stuff that we’re working on for Tractor Zoom right now!

    Date: Friday, February 18, 2022
    Time: 1230PM
    Location: Kentucky Expo Center – South Wing Room C104.

  5. Eat some ice cream.

    farm show pull safety crew
    Ehrler’s ice cream: Making farm show attendees and staffers happy since a long time ago!

    For those of you from Iowa, you know how you can’t go to the State Fair and not have Barksdale’s chocolate chip cookies, right?

    It’s the same way at the Farm Show. You can’t go to the Farm Show without having Ehrler’s ice cream!

    Ehrler’s has been a part of the Louisville landscape for 155 years now – first as a dairy, delivering milk to thousands of customers. Over the years, though, they found a calling in the ice cream business. And while they’re the in-house ice cream vendor for most of the major event locations in the city, don’t confuse them with just some random brand of ice cream. This stuff is LEGIT. You’ve gotta try it while you’re there. Ehrler’s sticks to a few mainstay flavors; but they rotate through a daily feature too.

    I’m a proud member of the #mintchipmafia, but I know that I’m in the minority on that. I talked with the folks at Ehrler’s this morning, and they told me that Butter Pecan and Cookies ‘N Cream were the top sellers at the Farm Show every year. Get this…they go through 3500 gallons of ice cream over those four days! That’s a lot of ice cream!

    farm show ice cream is the best thing ever
    Ehrler’s is absolutely a can’t-miss Farm Show tradition. If you don’t believe me, ask this little fella!
  6. Support Kentucky corn growers.

    Bourbontaster
    Sneak away from the Farm Show for a couple of hours and support Kentucky’s corn growers. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

    Kentucky and bourbon go together like peas and carrots. You can’t have one without the other. Furthermore, bourbon is big business for the Bluegrass State, accounting for $8.6 billion in revenue and over 17,000 jobs. Furthermore, the mashbill (recipe) for bourbon must have a minimum content of 51% corn. Believe me, bourbon is a big deal for area farmers. I know at least three corn growers who haul their corn to distilleries in the state.

    And the best part? Bourbon is awfully tasty, especially when you know what to focus on.

    There’s an area of downtown Louisville called Whiskey Row that’s only about ten or so minutes from the Kentucky Expo Center, and five distilleries have a presence there. They all do guided tours of their facilities along with tastings. Tours range from $20-100, depending on how fancy you want to get, and they all take about an hour or so. If you’re so inclined, I’d highly recommend sneaking away from the show for a couple hours to go and take a tour. I can nearly guarantee that your tour guide will be one of the most enthusiastic, passionate people that you’ll meet while you’re in Kentucky, and the production facilities that they’ll show you are absolutely beautiful. Furthermore, they’re steeped in deep tradition. In Kentucky, bourbon is a subject to be treated with great reverence. Honestly, it’s a lot like farming.

    *If you happen to take the tour at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, ask if Jodie Filiatreau (fill-eee-uh-trow) is around. He’s the artisanal master distiller for the property, and an old friend of mine!

  7. Meet people!

    mitas farm show booth
    Whether it’s waiting in line to see a New Holland that floats, or sharing a table at lunch…you’re gonna be around people. Say hi! Making connections is one of the best parts of the Farm Show.

    The Farm Show funnels somewhere north of a quarter million people through the doors every year. That’s a lot of people, and they’re not just from Kentucky! I’ve met people from all over the place. Had lunch with a nice family from Nebraska a few years ago, talked toys with a fella from Indiana in 2020, and went pulling with guys from the Netherlands in 2016! They were all terrific folks, and we all still keep in touch!

    My point is that everybody comes to this show with a different background, and that’s something that we can embrace as members of the ag community. Have some ice cream with an apple grower from West Michigan, or a pork loin sandwich with a combine tech from Iowa; they’ve all got stories to share, and almost invariably, they’re all pretty friendly folks!

    deutz fahr orchard tractor
    In the event that it’s my Uncle John (the aforementioned apple grower from West Michigan), you’d probably have as good a chance of meeting him here looking at orchard tractors as you would having an ice cream cone! He likes both!
  8. Go tractor pulling.

    PartingShot DarrinHunt
    The Farm Show tractor pull is the grand-daddy of all indoor pulling events. It’s the best of the best. Keep an eye out for Darrin Hunt’s D2 Prostock. He’s pulling on Wednesday. And while he’s definitely outnumbered in his class, he’s never outgunned. (The dealership he works for is also one of our Tractor Zoom partners!)

    The Championship Tractor Pull is a must-see, even if you only do it once. This is one of the only pulls on the planet where you’ll see the absolute best of the best from all over the country (and once in a while, from Europe) competing head to head. This year, the Farm Show selection committee had more applicants than ever before, and I know it wasn’t easy to narrow down the class competitors!

    The Prostocks are always a fan favorite, as they’re the biggest single-charger diesel class with the biggest motors. 680 cubic inches, the biggest charger you can spin, 24.5″ wide tires, and all the fuel you can push…it makes for a pretty impressive show! Many of these competitors are spinning a 6″+ charger, and making better than 4000 horsepower!

    The Super Stock classes have also been fan favorites, but historically they’ve always been split – alcohol had their own class and so did diesel. Since 2020, though, that’s been a thing of the past. Now the so-called “Duel of the Fuels” pits the traditional diesel-powered setups heads-up against their alky-burning counterparts. In 2020, alky-burners took the top two spots, but they may not have it quite as easy this time around. The diesel guys have continued to step up their game and it should be a terrific show!

    Two things to note on the tractor pull: 
    A. Bring earplugs. It gets pretty loud.
    B. Be on time. The opening ceremonies are really cool. 

  9. Go to Broadbent Arena during the day.

    Broadbent Arena
    Broadbent Arena, adjacent to Freedom Hall, is the best place to rub elbows with the drivers and get up close and personal with some of the prettiest tractors you’ve ever seen!

    Right across the parking lot from the Farm Show, you’ll find each day’s pulling competitors with their vehicles on display. If you’ve ever wanted to look under the hood of these fire-breathing monsters, here’s your chance to do it. They’re open to the public for most of the day, and the pullers always happy to answer questions about their machines. This is more than just a weekend warrior thing for them; they’ve invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making these machines competitive. At the end of the day, it’s a thrill for them to meet their fans and answer questions about their tractors!

    If you’ve got kiddos with you, ask to put them in the driver’s seat! There’s almost nothing that pullers love more than to see a kid’s eyes get as big a saucers as it dawns on them what they’re sitting in!

    DSC05978
    I can speak with some authority on this subject. These people are my pulling family, and my loved ones. I’ve watched kids dream from the driver’s seat at nearly every tractor pull I attend, and I’m tellin’ you…seeing those smiles and the look of amazement NEVER. GETS. OLD.
  10. Look for the big guy in the Tractor Zoom hat.

    Ryan at the farm show
    That’s me, and that’s what I look like. At 6’6″, I’m a hard guy to miss!

    I’ll be at the Farm Show all week, and I want to hear YOUR tractor stories. I’ve told lots of stories about tractors from all over the place…but for this week, I want to hear yours! Let’s talk! Auction stories? Yep, I want to hear ’em. The one that got away? I want to hear that one too. Collector stuff and rare ones? Definitely. Tractor pulling? Absolutely.

    At 6’6″ tall, I’m tough to miss. If you’re at one of the pulling sessions, you’ll most likely find me down in the media pit with a great big camera. Stop and say hi in between classes or if they take a break!

Lastly, two quick bits of advice. Wear comfortable shoes/boots – the Farm Show is definitely NOT the time to break in a new pair of Ariats. Also, if you’re planning on hitting the South or West wings to buy tools or toys or whatnot, do that LAST. You’ll like that cordless Milwaukee torque wrench kit a lot more if you don’t have to lug it all over creation all day.

Other than that, enjoy the Farm Show! See ya there!

Oh yeah, one more thing. Y’know how I said that this was my fifth Farm Show…sorta? Keep reading. 2020 was a doozy.

My fifth farm show…sorta.

I’ve been coming to the farm show since 2017 when John Mears (the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League director) asked me to come down to shoot the Championship Tractor Pull as part of his media team. John’s phone call literally changed my life, and I appreciate the opportunity he’s given me. It’s been a lot of fun, and the farm show is something I look forward to every year.

In 2020, though, things really didn’t go the way I’d planned. The plan was that I’d do social media stuff for Tractor Zoom at the show during the day, and then put on my photographer’s hat at night and shoot the tractor pull. It was going to be great! I had interviews lined up with some up and coming ag influencers and all sorts of neat stuff that was going to end up on our social channels.

The trip down to Louisville was fine. I got there on Monday evening and met Sherry Schaefer (Heritage Iron) and a buddy who’s a Kubota dealer for dinner at The Cardinal Cafe (which has since closed, I’m sorry to say). Went to the hotel and checked in, and no sooner had I fired up the laptop to answer some emails…I got a tickle in my throat and a cough. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the next day the cough got worse and I really wasn’t feeling great. By Tuesday evening, I was in rough shape. Hacking cough, chills, no voice, and it felt like I was swallowing razor blades. I grabbed some Gatorade and cold/cough medicine from a Walgreen’s, and went to bed around 9PM that night.

(Figure out where this is going yet?)

I’m not even kidding when I say that I didn’t get out of bed until 930AM on Thursday morning.

I did get over to the Farm Show for a couple of hours on Thursday, and even brought my camera gear with me, figuring maybe I could stick it out and shoot the Thursday night session of the pull. By 4PM, though, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Dejected, I went back to the hotel and crashed. Friday morning, I texted my boss and told him what was going on, and that I was throwing in the towel. And by noon, I was on the road headed back to Des Moines.

I never got tested, but I’m just about certain that I had COVID, because when I got home, I went to bed and basically didn’t move for the next few days.

So yeah…this will be my fifth Farm Show…sorta. Maybe more like my “four and a quarter-th”. I’ll never live it down with the pullers who were there that year, either. Some of my buddies from Missouri STILL put their hand over their face like a mask when they see me, and I’m pretty sure that Misty Lustik is going to call me “Patient Zero” for the rest of my life…

(With friends like mine…who really needs enemies?)

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