From shifting to online sales to going virtual for Open Farm Day, and from adjusting to socially distanced farmers’ markets to embracing new guidance for U-Pick operations, this has been a year of firsts for Maine agriculture. Farmers are adapting and meeting the challenges presented by the pandemic, and we anticipate that more changes and more creative thinking are needed as we enter 2021. This change includes our approach to traditional events, such as the Agricultural Trades Show.
Because of continued risks to public health and the financial risks associated with planning to host an in-person event, we will not be able to hold the Trades Show as a face-to-face event in January 2021 and instead plan a Virtual Agricultural Trades Show. Though we cannot gather in person, we can still celebrate the resilience of our agricultural community and support the businesses that rely upon this annual event because of the value it creates.
For eight decades, the Agricultural Trades Show has been the gathering place for agricultural producers, educators, exhibitors, businesses, and others to celebrate farming, exchange best practices, and explore farming products, equipment, and services. The Department recognizes that during the depths of Maine’s cold winter, the Trades Show is a vibrant gathering for producers, agricultural groups and associations, Department staff, and others to socialize and learn together. The decision to not hold the Trades Show as an in-person event is difficult, but one we must make now in the best interests of our agricultural community, both to protect everyone’s health and to provide advance notice of the need to pivot to a virtual format.
Because so many of us rely on the show to promote products and services, host annual meetings, receive credits, and hear updates about departmental programs and more, we want to create an online model for virtual meetings, webinars, and training presentations. In creating the Virtual Agricultural Trades Show, the Department wants to hear from you. What would you most like to see and participate in during the virtual event? What are the technical needs of agricultural groups to robustly participate in the online venue? Are there promotional opportunities that would be beneficial? To help answer these questions and solicit feedback, the Department invites everyone to provide their ideas and suggestions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or completing this survey. This direct feedback will help determine our next steps. We will be sure to communicate the Department’s plans for the Virtual Agricultural Trades Show as they develop.
This past year has been extremely challenging, and uncertainty still lies ahead. While disappointed not to be able to convene in-person in January, it is the Department’s goal to provide Maine farmers and producers with the tools and information necessary to prepare for the 2021 farm season and to facilitate information exchange. We look forward to creating a dynamic and engaging Virtual Agricultural Trades Show to meet these goals.
Amanda Beal, Commissioner