When the doors open for the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show next Friday, March 1, 50 years will have gone by since the first exhibition took place at the Memphis, Tenn., fairgrounds.

Approximately 1,000 people came to the 1952 event, which had 50 or so exhibitors. For the 2002 show, it's expected that more than 15,000 people will attend during the two-day run, and there'll be more than 400 exhibitors. Show hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, and 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Saturday.

From its modest beginnings, the show has compiled a record of steady growth, now completely filling available space at the downtown Cook Convention Center.

During the past five decades, it has also reflected the wide-ranging changes that have taken place in Mid-South agriculture, from the early days of mechanization and first-generation crop chemicals to today's genetically enhanced crops, sophisticated equipment, and space age technology.

“I don't think anyone attending that first show could have imagined that it would become what it is today,” said Lee Todd, executive vice president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and manager for the show which has become the largest indoor exhibit of agricultural products, equipment, and services in the Mid-South and the largest cotton equipment trade show in the nation.

“The show's success is a tribute to all the leaders of the association over the years who've helped to guide it along, to the hundreds of companies that have exhibited in the show, and to the region's farmers who come out every year to see what's new and to talk face-to-face with all the company representatives.”

Remarkably, five companies that were a part of the very first show have exhibited every year since 1952. They are L. P. Brown Co., Continental Gin Co., Delta and Pine Land Co., International Harvester Co., and Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Co.

“That's remarkable,” Todd said. “And many others have been in the show for 25 years or more.”

As has been the case for a number of years, this year's event will be co-sponsored by Delta Farm Press, which publishes the official program for the show.

“We congratulate the ginner association for this milestone achievement,” said Mike Gonitzke, Farm Press publisher. “We're pleased to be associated with this outstanding event.”

This year's show will feature an impressive array of new equipment, as manufacturers continue to improve and expand their product lines. Most major agrichemical and seed companies are also represented.

AG UPDATE SESSIONS

USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Washington, will be among speakers for this year's Ag Update programs Friday and Saturday.

Here's the speaker lineup for the sessions to be held in the lobby auditorium of the convention center at 8:30 a.m. each day:

Friday, March 1

  • Kenneth B. Hood, Mississippi producer/ginner, agribusinessman, and new chairman of the National Cotton Council, will give an update on council programs and the pending farm bill.
  • Richard E. Bell, president and chief executive officer of Riceland Foods, Stuttgart, Ark., will give the outlook for rice, soybeans, and wheat.
  • William “Billy” Dunavant, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Dunavant Enterprises, Memphis, will give his annual analysis of the U.S. and world cotton situation.

Saturday, March 1

  • Roy Cantrell, vice president of agricultural research for Cotton Incorporated, will discuss the producer-funded organization's cotton research programs.
  • William “Bill” Hawks, a north Mississippi farmer and former state senator before assuming his USDA post, will provide insight into the agency's programs and the new farm bill.
  • Bruce Scherr, president and chief executive officer, Sparks Companies, Memphis, will discuss the outlook for agricultural commodities.

Also, at 2 p.m. Saturday in the lobby auditorium, the National Cotton Women's Committee will stage its annual cotton fashion show, featuring American-made and American-grown cotton fashions.