Agriculture has a stamp on a number of Salina events that bring in thousands of folks for much more than trucking grain to market or stocking up on chicken feed.
Farm-related trade shows, the county fair, corporate training sessions and at least two livestock sales a week fill up Salina arenas, hotels and restaurants with folks, some from far way.
It’s fairly common to see dual-wheeled pickup trucks hooked to livestock trailers in the parking lots of Central Mall, Sam’s Club and other Salina retailers, said Carl Garten, director of the Central Kansas Extension District, which covers Saline and Ottawa counties.
Special 4-H livestock shows occur at the Saline County Livestock and Expo Center, and they’re a big part of the Tri-Rivers Fair late each summer — Aug. 3 through 7 this year.
From 10,000 to 12,000 people visit the Tri-Rivers Fair, which features a carnival, rodeo, demolition derby and judging of livestock and other youth projects, said Kim Norwood, fair board president.
“The fair is a community event, a county event, and it does pull beyond the county because of the rodeo and demolition derby,” she said.
Cattle sales a draw
People also pack the 400-seat sales arena at Farmers & Ranchers Livestock Commission, 1500 W. Highway 40, for cattle sales every Monday and Thursday, special sales on Tuesdays and horse sales twice a year, said Mike Samples, manager. Occasionally, those seats are occupied by celebrities.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Bradshaw, a Hall of Fame quarterback, and Jay Novacek, former tight end with the Dallas Cowboys — both multiple Super Bowl champions — have attended horse sales here.
“Terry came here one day. He had a ball cap and sunglasses on, sat on the south side, and nobody knew,” Samples said. “He bought some horses for his girlfriend.”
The arena will attract an overflow crowd for horse sales, he said, bringing people from as many as 30 states, including California, Vermont and New Jersey.
A typical cattle sale will bring sellers and buyers from all over Kansas, Samples said.
“We also sell cattle from Missouri and Oklahoma,” he said. “Two weeks ago, we sold 800 cows from the same guy in Ten Sleep, Wyo. Our cow sales will get buyers from four, five or six states. When there are drought conditions, we get cows from where it’s dry.”
Shows draw from area
The 51st annual Mid America Farm Expo, March 29 through 31 at the Salina Bicentennial Center and Saline County Livestock & Expo Center, is expected to bring up to 10,000 farmers, ranchers and agribusiness persons.
“It’s a big draw from northwest Kansas,” said Garten, who is chairman of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce agriculture division.
Garten is chairman of the farm expo, which is expected to bring in more than 300 exhibits this year and will feature education programs. He also heads the Kansas All Breeds Junior Dairy Show in late August. That show will attract 4-H youngsters from 20 to 25 counties and up to 125 head of dairy cattle from several counties, representing all six breeds, said Don Weiser, chamber president and CEO.
Late January is the time for the No-till on the Plains Winter Conference. The two-day gathering, followed by the one-day Agriculture’s Innovative Minds Symposium — both in the Salina Bicentennial Center —attracts roughly 1,200 people to Salina every year.
Brings in visitors
National and international flavors are often present at Great Plains Manufacturing, 1525 E. North, where sales and service technicians are regular visitors from around the nation and globe.
The major Salina employer, with plants in Salina and several small north-central Kansas towns and many interests overseas, makes agricultural implements for tillage, seeding and planting. Its Land Pride division makes mowing, dirt-working and landscaping equipment.
Groups from five or six at a time to 150 or more visit Salina once or twice a year, said Roy Applequist, company owner and founder, to learn about Great Plains and Land Pride products, to see how they’re made and how to make repairs.
Occasionally, he said, a dealer will bring in a group of farmers who are potential customers. Another 100 domestic regional salesmen, and salesmen and company staff from overseas visit the Salina office a couple of times a year.
“We’ve had training here for several years, and it has proven to be a real effective way to present our products and train sales and service technicians,” Applequist said.
Dealers and technicians will stay in Salina for two or three days each visit.
“It’s a lot more effective to bring them in. We can show the engineering process to develop machinery, to maximize the longevity and performance of the machine,” said Daniel Rauchholz, president of Great Plains International.
B&B is working ranch
The C&W Ranch, near Smolan, attracts agricultural groups for meetings and meals, among them farm equipment maker AGCO, which hosted a group of farmers and machinery dealers from Russia in 2014, said owner Joel Wimer. Others are attracted to the bed and breakfast for some agricultural enjoyment.
“We built it as a working ranch. People come because they want to be in the country in a bed and breakfast and be on a working ranch,” said Wimer, who owns the ranch with his wife, Jeri, and their three grown children.
“We’ve had people from Russia and Japan,” he said. “They find us on an international website that has to do with with B&Bs and ranches.”
Tim Unruh is a veteran ag reporter for the Salina Journal.