It's about this time each year that Lee Todd starts doing some serious weather wishing: He wishes for a good rain a couple of days prior to the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show. A timely rain means farmers won't be doing early field work and will head for the show.

“Most years, we've been lucky and had cooperative weather,” he says. And even when it didn't rain, the crowds still turned out.

For the big 2003 show, to be held Feb. 28-March 1 at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, he's hoping everyone's planning to come regardless of what the weather does, because this will be the largest show in the 51-year history of the event.

With completion of the multi-year expansion project at the convention center, the show will have an additional 35,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“We've got more than 200,000 square feet this year, and it's all sold out,” says Todd, who's show manager and executive vice president of the sponsoring organization, the Southern Cotton Ginners Association.

“We've got a really great facility now,” he says. “We're now able to arrange exhibits more effectively, with a much improved traffic flow. Anyone who hasn't been to the show in the last two or three years will really be impressed with all the changes that have been made.”

From the latest in equipment, to seed, chemicals, and services, and other products, growers will find it in the hundreds of exhibits that make up the largest indoor farm show in the South and the largest cotton equipment trade show in the nation.

And to make things even more interesting, $4,000 in cash prizes will be awarded during the show, along with another $250 at the Saturday morning Ag Update seminar.

A late addition to the show will be a special display of Labrador and small breed puppies, with a Lab puppy being given away to a lucky winner at 3:30 p.m. each day.

This year's show, coming just before farmers kick off the new season, will offer an opportunity for growers to get the latest outlook on crops and markets from two Ag Update seminars, plus meeting face to face with representatives for a wide range of equipment, products, and services, he says.

Food service will also be expanded and made more convenient so showgoers can take a break for refreshments and/or lunch.

“These are very challenging times for agriculture, and farmers attending the show will have an opportunity to get the latest news on agricultural issues and crop outlooks at the two Ag Update sessions,” Todd says.

Here's the lineup of speakers:

Friday, Feb. 28: Bobby Greene, Alabama ginner/warehouseman and chairman-elect of the National Cotton Council, who will give an update on Council programs and legislative efforts; Richard E. Bell, president and chief executive officer of Riceland Foods, who will give the outlook for rice, soybeans, and wheat; and William “Billy” Dunavant, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Dunavant Enterprises, who will present his annual cotton outlook.

Saturday, March 1: O. A. Cleveland Jr., former Mississippi State University economist and an international authority on cotton marketing, will give his analysis of the cotton sector, and Barry Worsham, president of Cotton Incorporated, will present an overview current programs of the producer-funded promotion and marketing organization. A third speaker, a staff member from the Senate Agriculture Committee, will also be on the program.

Member associations of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association are holding their annual meetings in conjunction with the Farm & Gin Show. Headquarters for the ginner events will be the Peabody Hotel.

Participating are the Arkansas-Missouri Cotton Ginners Association, the Mississippi Cotton Ginners Association, the Tennessee Cotton Ginners Association, and the Louisiana Cotton Ginners Association.

In addition to all the great information, show attendees will have an opportunity to win cash prizes in drawings held during the show's two-day run.

The official program for the show, which includes information about exhibitors, things to do, places to eat, along with stories and photos related to Mid-South ginning and agricultural production, is published by Farm Press and will be mailed with the Feb. 21 issue of Delta Farm Press and to Alabama subscribers in the Feb. 19 issue of Southeast Farm Press.