SENECA FALLS, N.Y. — When Ralph Lott thought about hosting Empire Farm Days on his vast corn and soybean farm in Seneca Falls in 1986, he was excited at possibly getting some free equipment out of the deal.
“When we first talked to them, everybody said you’d get tractors for nothing, you’ll get this for nothing, that for nothing. That never materialized,” Lott said with a laugh.
Still, 25 years later, he has no regrets over hosting one of the nation’s largest outdoor agricultural equipment shows.
“We always attended shows and thought this was a chance to have it on our farm. So we said, Why not?’ It’s been great.”
The 80th Empire Farm Days was held Tuesday through Thursday on 325 acres of the Rodman Lott and Son Farm. The annual show is sponsored by Empire State Potato Growers Inc.
More than 65,000 people turned out for the show, which featured field demonstrations of equipment, informational sessions put on by Cornell Cooperative Extension and other state ag organizations, “ride-and-drive” demonstrations, animal husbandry exhibits, and more than 600 exhibitors showing off everything from precision ag technology to the latest in crop management tools.
Melanie Wickham, Empire Farm Days manager, said the show has evolved from its original focus on dairy farming.
This year’s show featured larger exhibits on corn and soybeans, new equine-related seminars, and more animal exhibits, including a new one focusing on alpacas.
“We try to watch what’s going on in the Northeast. And you’re seeing an increase in equine farms. You’re seeing an increase in corn and soybean acreage. And so we’ve really kind of focused on the changes that you see in Northeast agriculture. We hope to reflect it here,” Wickham said.
Producers had plenty of educational presentations and exhibits to choose from.
Several dairy profit seminars were held during the three-day show, focusing on things such as the next generation of dairy farmers, robotic milking, cow comfort and polled genetics. The seminars were sponsored by Cornell Pro-Dairy and Dairy Business.
A new Corn and Soybean Center, sponsored by the New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association, featured the latest technologies as well as grower panels for producers to share information and interact.
Ralph Lott, along with two of his sons and his wife, manage a total of 3,500 acres of land, which is all no-till and planted exclusively in corn and soybeans.
The timing of the show, he said, is good, considering most of the previous year’s corn is no longer in the bin and all of the soybeans have gone to market.
The Lott family first hosted the show in 1988.
His family has been on the farm since 1980 after moving to New York from Florida. They’re originally from Bucks County, Pa.
Even though this part of New York is notorious for harsh winters, Lott said the location of the farm, between two of the state’s Finger Lakes, actually creates a moderating effect that results in usually milder winters as compared to a little further north toward Syracuse.
“We have one tractor planting soybeans. Another one plants corn. One combine in the fall. The three of us do it all and my wife runs a grain cart in the fall. So the four of us do it all,” he said. “It’s a full-time job for us when we’re not doing the farm show business.”
Not only has the show changed its focus from dairy and branched into other territory, the site itself has changed as well.
“It’s just improved 100 percent. We didn’t have stone driveways. We just came through two of the wettest weeks we ever had here. Without the stone driveways, we’d just be in mud from ear to ear,” Ralph Lott said. “All of the roads have been fixed, the road signs are better. Ride-and-drives we’ve never had before. Pond demonstrations are fairly new. We’re just using more of what’s here.”