VAN WERT, Ohio — After 30 years of showcasing the latest in agricultural production, research and equipment, the two-day Farm Focus agricultural event has been discontinued.
Gary Prill, an Ohio State University Extension specialist for Van Wert County and Farm Focus coordinator, said that declining attendance and reduction in the number of vendors are mainly to blame for the Farm Focus committee's decision to cancel the show. The event, sponsored by the non-profit organization Farm Focus and Ohio State Extension, was held at the Marsh Foundation School Farms in Van Wert, Ohio.
"Attendance continued to decline over the years. Where as in the late 70s and early 80s there were reports of 10,000 to 12,000 people who attended, this year for example, we saw only maybe around 2,000 to 2,500 attendees," said Prill. "And where there are no visitors, there are no vendors. And it just got tougher for the small number of volunteers we have to make the show happen for only a few farmers."
Despite the dissolution of the farm show, other Farm Focus events may continue, such as the continued agricultural research on the Marsh Foundation School Farms' 300 acres of test plots. Plans are also underway to conduct field days and wagon tours throughout the season to disseminate educational and research information based on the data compiled from the research plots. Prill said the continued research and other activities are dependent on funding support.
"We feel it is important to keep the research end of it going, and to be an educational tool for farmers in Van Wert and surrounding counties," said Prill.
Keeping the research angle of Farm Focus alive will also continue to financially support Farm Focus activities. "The farm lease agreement Farm Focus has with the Marsh Foundation in conjunction with Ohio State Extension has been a good financial tool for Farm Focus," said Prill.
Farm Focus contributes around $3,000 in donations annually to local organizations who helped with the show (local police, sheriff, and fire departments and the Van Wert County fairboard, for example). The committee also contributes another $3,000 to $5,000 in support of local Junior Fair livestock sales, OSU Extension-Van Wert County projects, fairground facilities/buildings, and other community projects.
"We tried a lot of different things over the years to keep the farm show running. We made the Marsh Foundation School Farms the show's permanent site in 1994 and we changed the time the show was held from during the week to the weekend last year based on surveys of when farmers would most likely attend," said Prill. "If we knew what was causing the decline in attendance, we would have done something to fix it. It was a tough decision, but the future of Farm Focus projects will be changing."