For 50 years, farmers have come to the Gateway Farm Expo in Kearney, Nebraska to check out the latest equipment and seed technology while enjoying a social atmosphere.
It’s a farm show people can feel good about, said show chairman Steve Linden. The non-profit show returns money to local FFA and 4-H groups, gives toward upkeep of the Buffalo County Fairgrounds where the show is held, and awards scholarships to students pursuing agriculture-related fields.
“People like that. They see that we’re giving back,” Linden said.
Linden, a real estate broker by day, is one of many volunteers that make the show run. The work they do to promote the show, is what’s kept it running strong for 50 years, he said.
The Gateway Farm Show started as an event of the chamber of commerce ag committee, held at the airport. It originally took place in mid-May with machinery lined up along the runways and exhibits set up inside the hangars.
When the airport got too busy, the show moved to the fairgrounds. That was just before Linden joined the board of directors. He’s been helping organize the show since 1975, and he’s seen his share of changes in that time. The chamber is still involved in the farm show, but it’s now under the nonprofit Kearney Farm Expo and coordinated by the Kearney Area Ag Producers Alliance Cooperative.
About 15 years ago, they moved the show dates from spring – when farmers were busy planting – to fall after the crop was in the bin.
“It’s been a whole lot better deal,” Linden said.
They’ve also made an effort to keep things farm-focused. One way of doing that is hosting speakers on timely topics.
“People want to come to a show to get educated, especially in today’s economy,” Linden said. “Farmers need to stay on top of things, get ideas on how to do things more efficiently and help their bottom line.”
This year, visitors can hear about land values, the market outlook and hemp production. The keynote speaker is University of Nebraska-Lincoln agribusiness professor emeritus Ron Hanson, who will be talking about transferring the farm to the generation.
Another farm show highlight is the food. Local businesses sponsor a free barbecue lunch, serving beef the first day and pork on Day 2. During lunch, the Nebraska Auctioneers Association will hold its auctioneer and ringman championship Wednesday. Thursday will feature the music of the OK Sisters.
“It’s not lonely a good learning and buying experience – we try to create a social atmosphere, too,” Linden said. “We give people a reason to come to our show.”
Exhibitors get in on the free lunch, too. A volunteer crew delivers sandwiches from booth to booth. Along with free access to Wi-Fi and electricity, it makes the show pretty popular with exhibitors, Linden said. Their 400-plus spaces for booths sell out every year, he added.
Exhibitors are stepping up this year to provide a little something extra for the farm show’s 50th year. The Gateway Farm Expo is giving away 50 door prizes worth $200 or more. That’s in addition to the ATV the show gives away each year.
Local dignitaries will be on hand for the opening ceremony, including Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse, and state Sen. John Lowe.
The show runs Nov. 20 and 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Admission and parking is free.