Take a look: Behind the farm show scenes

As preparation for the 2023 Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days ramps up, here’s a backstage look and a sneak peek at what you can look forward to.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

June 8, 2023

3 Min Read
 Aerial view of attendees at the Farm Progress Show watching the field demonstration of a combine harvesting corn
BIG SHOW: Host farmers are hard at work managing the crops that will be harvested live at the 2023 Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days. National Events Director Matt Jungmann says crops at both sites are in “fantastic condition.” Chad Colby

As the farm season clock ticks closer to show time, work behind the scenes ramps up, and the folks on the show team run even harder.

“Exhibitors are coming back and growing at an impressive rate, following the COVID years,” says Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress national events director. He and his staff are wrapping up exhibit sales and sending out assignments, and he’s spent the past several weeks with his “900-piece jigsaw puzzle,” carefully planning out lot assignments for each exhibitor and trying to make every one of them happy — no small feat.

“The Farm Progress Show is almost entirely sold out at this point,” Jungmann says. “Out of 950 lots, we have 20 left. And Husker Harvest Days has a few more open lots, but is more sold than at this point last year.”

Behind the scenes, that means the show team has sent out lot assignments to exhibitors, which means they have their exhibit number and login access to an exhibitor portal. Some exhibitors are filling out field demonstration applications and talking with Jungmann about autonomous demos and more.

“Right now, it’s everything from new exhibitors calling with questions to seasoned exhibitors checking their boxes — trucking arranged, pressure washing booked, hotel rooms secured,” he explains.

Big ideas can pay off

Sometimes those questions come with crazy ideas, and Jungmann has to figure out whether they fit within the show’s rules, which are designed to make the experience fair for all exhibitors and safe for every visitor.

“Everybody wants more space and more room to do their demos, so we work with them so there’s space for visitors to see it all,” he says.

One example of a crazy idea that won’t make the cut? Beer gardens all day long or at field demos. Some ideas work well for a smaller company event with a smaller crowd but don’t transfer well to an event with the size and scope of the Farm Progress Show or Husker Harvest Days.

“A lot of the things we say no to are due to safety, or we can’t allow every exhibitor to do or it’ll be a mess. Or it’s not safe for visitors or for them,” Jungmann explains.

But the crazy ideas are often where the really good ideas start — like concerts, T-shirt canons during field demos, parking lot shuttles in stretch golf carts, and “fact wagon” golf carts. “Those are all ideas that came from exhibitors and worked out really well,” Jungmann says.

Another example of a great idea will play out live during Husker Harvest Days this year. Just before each of the corn harvest demonstrations (morning and afternoon) on Wednesday, the local National Guard unit will have parachuters jump out the back of Chinook helicopters. Like all things related to field demonstrations, this one’s also weather dependent, but Jungmann is excited about the possibility of HHD catching a demonstration like that.

“It was their idea and we said, ‘Yes, do that!’” he says.

The other big behind-the-scenes piece to manage is the field demonstration crops. Jungmann says the field demo corn in Decatur, Ill., got rain recently, and all reports are that the crops in both Decatur and Grand Island, Neb., are in fantastic condition.

Overall, Jungmann is looking forward to these two shows, noting that the Farm Progress Show is a momentous one in 2023, as it marks 70 years since the first show. Jungmann says it’s bucket-list time for a lot of folks.

“A lot of people from around the country tell me they have Husker or the Farm Progress Show on their bucket list, and lots of people are activating that bucket list this year,” he says. “Look for more grower interest than ever and tons of international visitors.”

The 2023 Farm Progress Show will be held Aug. 29-31 in Decatur, Ill., and the 2023 Husker Harvest Days will be held Sept. 12-14 in Grand Island, Neb.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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