Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Announces Plans for a Virtual 2021 Maine Agricultural Trades Show

September 29, 2020

For more information contact: Jim Britt at (207) 480-0558

AUGUSTA - The Maine Agricultural Trades Show (ATS) will be held as a virtual event in January 2021. The announcement comes after the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), which organizes and runs the ATS, assessed the public health and financial risks associated with planning to host an in-person event. Although the event would take place a few months from now, the ability to gather together is still likely to be limited to a level that is much lower than the number of people who would regularly attend the ATS.

DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal and Bureau of Agriculture Director Nancy McBrady explained the Department's decision in a letter emailed to farmers, producers, and business owners who annually rely upon the event for everything from new product sales and networking to continuing education, conferences, and certifications.

"Maine's agriculture sector continues to adjust to the pandemic," said Director McBrady. "We know our farmers and producers would value the opportunity to gather together in preparation for the 2021 season, and for many, the Trades Show is an annual kick-off event for the year. But ultimately, the health and wellbeing of our community takes precedence."

By holding the event virtually, farmers, service providers, vendors, and the general public will still be able to celebrate agriculture in Maine while accessing important and timely resources and information.

"We are looking forward to working with stakeholders to make sure our virtual Agricultural Trades Show delivers high-quality results," said Commissioner Beal. "With the ingenuity and innovation that both our agricultural community and our staff in the Department embodies, I am certain we will be able to put on a dynamic, interactive, educational, and informative virtual event."

Beal and McBrady invited past attendees, industry members, and all members of the agriculture community, to complete an online survey to help DACF design the best online model for virtual meetings, webinars, training sessions, and more. Survey responses are requested by October 16, 2020.

About the Maine Agricultural Trades Show

A tradition since 1941, DACF's Maine Agricultural Trades Show is where the state's agricultural community convenes to celebrate farming, network, and plan for the coming season. Organized and hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the show provides access to resources that empower farmers and rural communities. Typically, over 100 exhibitors and dozens of conference sessions are part of this show, attracting agricultural producers, educators, exhibitors, businesses, and others to celebrate farming, exchange best practices, and explore farming products, equipment, and services. The show is free and open to the public and is an excellent opportunity for all ages to experience Maine's dynamic agriculture industry.

The full text of the letter is available below:

September 29, 2020

Dear Friends:

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 Maines 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 everyones 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 acfagtradesshow@maine.gov or completing this survey. This direct feedback will help determine our next steps. We will be sure to communicate the Departments 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 Departments 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.

Sincerely,

Amanda Beal, Commissioner
Nancy McBrady, Director, Bureau of Agriculture, Food & Rural Resources