It's countdown time: The big Mid-South Farm & Gin Show is only a week away. “We hope by now everyone has circled the dates and made plans to be with us March 2-3,” says Lee Todd, executive vice president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and show manager.

The event — the largest cotton equipment trade show in the nation — will be held at the Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis. Show hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday. Admission is free. Delta Farm Press is co-sponsor of the show, which attracts several thousand visitors.

This year's event, the 49th for the ginners association, will offer more than 400 exhibits. Showgoers will find a convention center packed full of new equipment, as manufacturers continue improving or expanding their product lines. Most major agrichemical and seed companies will also be represented, offering growers the latest information about their products and services.

“Our show gives farmers an opportunity to see firsthand the news and latest products,” Todd says. “They can talk face-to-face with representatives of all the major companies in agriculture today.”

In addition to the big show, the popular Ag Update Seminars held each day will provide information on farm legislation, cotton and grain markets, and precision farming. Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and John Maguire, director of the National Cotton Council's Washington operations, will offer their insight into the political process as it affects agriculture.

Memphis cotton merchant William Dunavant will give his annual market outlook; Riceland Foods Chief Executive Officer Richard Bell will offer his analysis of the grain markets; and Mississippi farmer/ginner Kenneth Hood will discuss the economics of precision farming.

Bell, Maguire, and Dunavant will speak at the Friday, March 2, session, starting at 8:30 a.m. in the lobby auditorium. Berry and Hood will speak at the Saturday morning session, also at 8:30 a.m. in the lobby auditorium.

“Information is more important than ever,” Todd says, “and these Ag Update sessions, as well as the opportunity to talk directly to representatives of the key players in agriculture, will give area farmers a head start on this year's cropping season.

“We hope everyone will come out and attend these very informative sessions.”

The member associations of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association will be holding their annual meetings in conjunction with the show.

At their annual meeting Thursday, March 1, at 1:30 p.m. at the Peabody Hotel's Venetian Room, Norma McDill, deputy administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, will discuss the government cotton program.

Also speaking will be Arkansas farmer/ginner Richard Bransford, current president of the National Cotton Ginners Association, and Jerry Gilbert, Mississippi State University, who will discuss the school's gin management curriculum.

Anyone interested in hearing these presentations is welcome to attend.

Other events include Friday and Saturday night dances at the Peabody, the annual Grown and Made in the U.S.A. Cotton Fashion Show Saturday at 2 p.m. in the convention center lobby auditorium.

“This is going to be our best show ever,” Todd says confidently. “We're looking forward to having Mid-South farmers and their families join us for an informative, fun-filled weekend in Memphis.”

SHOW PARKING

Free shuttle bus service will operate between the Convention Center and the Peabody Hotel. Since parking can sometimes be tight in the Convention Center area, a suggested alternate is to use one of the several parking garages and lots near the Peabody and catch the shuttle from the hotel. Buses will leave frequently during show hours from the Union Avenue entrance to the Peabody. Or you can park in one of the lots near the Peabody and walk a couple of blocks to the trolley line.