Get your Ag On

Purdue University’s Hydroponics and Greenhouse Workshop

Indiana’s Top Agricultural and Horticultural Events 

Story by Cathy Shouse

“Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get,” according to the late Mark Twain. Both weather and climate are top priority with Hoosiers, and that is especially true for Indiana’s farmers. The state is literally rooted in agriculture and there are numerous events to ramp up your appreciation of that heritage, learn about current food production, and study all things agriculture related. These aren’t your grandpa’s events, either. There’s everything from drones that sometimes fly overhead to extensive information sessions on the technologies now used for crop production.

Lori Jolly-Brown of Purdue University is affiliated with the school’s Horticulture & Landscape Architecture. The annual Indiana Horticultural Congress & Trade Show (IHC) is the main event she manages, but there are many smaller sessions scheduled throughout the year as well. The next IHC is slated for February 11-13, 2020 at the Indianapolis Marriott East Hotel and around 450 people are expected to attend. Until then, there are smaller events. July 18 is Meigs High Tunnel Field Day at Meigs Horticulture Farm and features tours of conventional and hydroponic high tunnel cucumber and melon production; August 1, is Small Farm Ed Field Day, where Purdue’s working small farm, run by students, demonstrates growing vegetables and herbs and using the principles that naturally govern balanced eco systems; September 5 is a Hydroponics & Greenhouse workshop about best varieties, nutrient recipes, production systems, artificial lighting and temperature needs for hydroponic lettuce produced in greenhouses and indoors, with many hands-on activities.

The Fort Wayne Farm Show is one of the nation’s top five indoor farm shows.

This year is the 41st running of the farm show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, which will happen December 17-19, 2019. Renamed the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo, the event was given a reboot last year with many updates. “Technology” was added to the name to better reflect today’s farm environment. Event president Gary Truitt attended farm shows for years and has been involved with many aspects of agriculture, from journalism to radio shows. So he had observed what worked and what didn’t. He knew that in addition to learning about the equipment and technology, farmers liked sharing ideas with one another.

“People come to the show because there’s a lot of camaraderie,” Truitt said. “We set up a little coffee shop. It was in the middle of the show and you could sit and talk and get a cup of coffee. It was a lot of learning and social networking, and exchanging ideas.”

The show is offering more demonstrations in an effort to appeal to everyone in the family. Many Future Farmers of America (FFA) high school students got involved last year and attendees came who were in their 30s and 40s. About 3,000 people attended.

The general public may be interested in the wide variety of toy farm machinery for sale, often popular with collectors and children. Plus, learning about how food is produced can be interesting and important. Last year they did giveaways, including drones as prizes.

“The farm show is a great way to see what’s going on with food,” Truitt said. “There’s so much misinformation out there…If you really want to see how food is produced, come and ask questions.”

But to see the granddaddy of all farm shows, plan to spend January 14, 15, and 16 at the 2020 Fort Wayne Farm Show. In its 31st year, it’s held at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum annually.

The show is like an extravaganza, with the largest variety of farm machinery in the region all in one location. Northeastern Indiana Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Purdue Cooperative Extension will present daily educational seminars. Fred Cline, the show’s director, said he works with a company that decorates the coliseum to add comfort and eye appeal. After all the planning, people can be counted on to show up in droves.

“At this year’s show in January, we had 30,282 registered attendees and about 1,100 booths,” Cline said. “It’s one of the top five indoor farm shows in the nation. We bring in people from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Illinois. We consistently get people from Pennsylvania.”

Every last detail is nailed down when event days roll around. There’s only one thing that can’t be controlled. “I worry about the weather every year…but unless it’s heavy snow conditions, we have good attendance. There’s just more four-wheel drives and pick-ups in the parking lot,” Cline said with a laugh.

Leave it to farmers to know how to deal with Indiana’s climate.