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Tracy Frank, Published September 14 2009

Big Iron expected to draw big crowds

More than 80,000 people are expected to converge on the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo for the 29th annual Big Iron Farm Show this week.

Attendees will include more than 150 people from at least 14 foreign countries who buy products from local vendors.

“It helps them establish relationships for long-term business,” said Jeff Zent, communications director for the North Dakota Trade Office.

A large number of foreign visitors will come from the Commonwealth of Independent States, an association of sovereign states formed by Russia and 11 other republics that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, Zent said.

“These are key markets for us,” he said. “They’re in dire need of updated new technology.”

There will be more than 600 vendors and more than 800 booths at the show.

“There’s a lot of business going on, so the economic impact that it has to our region, it’s absolutely huge,” said Bryan Schulz, Red River Valley Fair and Big Iron general manager.

It takes organizers the whole year to prepare for the event, he said, adding that vendors will place their booth spaces for next year as soon as this show ends. Space sells out fast, but the Red River Valley Fair plans to renovate one of its cattle buildings so it will be able to house another 80 booths next year.

“People are constantly asking to get into the show. They want inside booths, and we’re sold out,” Schulz said.

Over the years, Big Iron has grown tremendously, Schulz said. There have also been a lot of changes in technology that have affected agribusiness, he said.

John Nowatzki, ag machine systems specialist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service and the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, said Big Iron is an important event for farmers to learn about new advances in agriculture and to see the latest equipment that’s available.

A new feature this year will be strip till demonstrations for corn, soybean and sugar beet productions. Strip tilling, a relatively new technique in this area, is a method of tilling soil in 10-inch-wide strips and leaving a section in between the strips that is not tilled, Nowatzki said.

“By doing the strip till, they can have the advantages of regular tillage but also the advantages of reducing wind erosion and water erosion,” he said.

There will also be featured discussions on agricultural topics, top production beef cattle on display, tractor pulls, health screenings, a craft show and a ladies brunch.

If you go

What: Big Iron Farm Show

Where: Red River Valley Fairgrounds, West Fargo

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday

Cost: free

Contact: (800) 456-6408 or (701) 282-2200

Online: www.bigironfarmshow.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526