Opportunity to create new partnerships
Several Porterville area businesses are among the 1,500 exhibitors at the 51st annual World Ag Expo this week, and The Recorder checked in with some of them to get their thoughts on the event and how it impacts their business.
“It’s early, but it’s looking good so far, and the weather’s good,” said Gary Wilson of Strathmore Ladder from inside their booth in the opening hours of the event Tuesday morning. Strathmore Ladder has operated in Strathmore for 82 years, and is one of a few exhibitors that have been present at all 51 World Ag Expos. The WAE began Tuesday and concludes its 2018 run today at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.
Wilson said he rarely gets the opportunity to leave the booth and explore, but says the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space at the expo is like a big magazine advertisement.
“There’s a lot of people here and a lot to take in. You can walk all day long and you won’t see it all,” he said.
While much of the expo focuses on innovation and emerging technology in the ag industry, Wilson says Strathmore Ladder uses the expo as an opportunity to make acquaintances and create new partnerships.
“Not much changes in the ladder world, so we don’t have new things to show every single year,” said Wilson. “More than anything you see your customers, vendors and friends, and there’s always new people to meet so it’s a good place to be,” said Wilson.
A unique characteristic of the event is its international appeal. According to the WAE website, people from 43 states 71 countries attended last year’s ag expo, and this year’s event features an entire pavilion dedicated to Italian advanced agricultural technology.
Wilson says he regularly talks to attendees from South America, Spain and African nations at the event, and has learned much about international agriculture, like the fact that Israel is a major citrus producing nation for European markets.
“As small as that country is, they actually grow citrus there. You really get people from all over,” he said.
Willie Flores of Porterville’s Endurequest, which manufactures a line of polyethylene horse feeders and other equestrian products, also has had a taste of the expo’s international flavor.
He said he had already been invited by a Chinese attendee to come and sell products in his country.
“We’ve been waiting all year for this event, and it’s been great already,” said Flores.
Endurequest has been operating in Porterville since 1991, and have had an exhibit at the expo for the last 12 years.
They originally used their rotational molding equipment to manufacture equestrian products, but have since began fabricating sanitation components for portable restrooms brought in from Michigan. Being an exhibitor at the expo has impressed upon Flores the many facets of the agricultural world.
“It’s one tree with many branches. It’s a huge industry and there’s so much out there that’s untouched,” he said.
For Mark Veteto of Vamco in Lindsay, the expo is also a valuable business tool. He has been participating at the expo for 45 years, and uses the input he receives at the event as a barometer to gauge how business will be for the upcoming year.
“From this show and the contacts we make, I can almost judge our entire year’s market,” he said.
Vamco manufactures and sells wind machines to citrus and grape growers for frost protection, and Veteto said their client base is very diversified, ranging from small 10 acre growers to large companies like Wonderful Citrus.
“We cover one end of the Valley to the other, plus we have operations out of state, and we have dealers in the wine growing areas of California,” said Veteto.
While the showcases at the World Ag Expo offer a glimpse into the future of agriculture, Veteto, like so many other ag professionals, is never too far removed from the current conditions and issues facing the industry.
He said the recent warm weather in the Valley has caused some trees to bloom two to three weeks prematurely, making crops very vulnerable if cold weather returns.
“The almond growers are really nervous right now. If the almond buds are closed, they can handle 25 degrees. As soon as they open, 32 degrees is deadly,” he said.