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Farmers flock to 37th annual Northern Illinois Farm Show at Convocation Center

37 years and counting for Northern Illinois Farm Show’s veteran vendor

DeKALB – Fred and Anita Koch have been going to the Northern Illinois Farm Show for 37 years, and Fred wants to do “at least three more” to make it an even 40.

The IDEAg Group LLC kicked off its 37th annual Northern Illinois Farm Show on Wednesday morning at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center, 125 W. Lincoln Highway. The event will run until 3 p.m. Thursday.

Representing Koch’s company and selling Walinga Agri-Vacs at the two-day show is just the icing on the cake for high school sweethearts Fred and Anita Koch.

“It’s a vacuum that sucks up corn, soybeans, small grain, loads it in the trucks and then blows it into bins and silos,” Fred Koch said, gesturing to the green Agri-Vac, which he sells to seed dealers and farmers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana. “The grain only touches one moving part: the air lock.”

Hailing from Ashton, Fred, 77, and Anita, 76, have been married for 56 years and consider the farm show another chance to see their friends – “She’s more popular than I am,” quipped Fred Koch, as Anita Koch embraced someone she used to babysit.

“This show provides a place for farmers to come out and connect with their local dealers,” said Niki Jones, marketing manager for the American Farm Bureau Federation and IDEAg.

Jones said event organizers expect to see 3,000 to 5,000 people attend the exhibition, which features more than 90 vendors and brings together agribusiness, educators and agriculture experts.

Three generations of the Weidner family were visiting the farm show from Garden Prairie.

“I didn’t have to talk him into coming today,” said Jordan Weidner, gesturing to his 4-year-old son, Everett, as the future farmer climbed into a tractor a few years too big for him. Grandpa Alan Weidner looked on.

The Weidner family farms corn, beans and hogs and regularly makes the exhibition a family affair.

The farm show also offers classes and certification testing for herbicide and pesticide use, such as dicamba, which is new this year. Dicamba is an active ingredient in a herbicide for soybeans, but farmers in Illinois can’t use it until they are certified and have gone through testing to be compliant with application regulations. The testing will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday on the lower level of the Convocation Center.

Fred Koch said organic farmers and seed dealers like the Agri-Vac in part because it cleans dust off the grain and seeds before they are stored and doesn’t crack the product like other machines.

“One person can operate [the Agri-Vac], but it’s better with two,” Fred Koch said. “Anytime you’re running a machine like this, you should have two operators, if one gets in trouble.”

The Kochs are retired cattle feed farmers who farmed 1,000 acres until retiring in 2004, but they don’t show any signs of slowing down.

“My kids told me I was getting too old,” Fred Koch said. “I told them ‘I’m just as old as I feel.’ ”

Unlike the Kochs, although just as enthusiastic, drone salesman Michael Ferguson of Aerial Influence, based out of Elburn, came to the show for the first time this year to build connections with the local farming community.

“We’re looking to help farmers or organizations get up and running with a drone fleet,” Ferguson said. “You can use high-grade mapping drones, multispectral drones, [which] try to figure out whether or not there’s stress in the plant, or for scouting or spraying, so a lot of different uses.”

The Agras MG-1S drone on display cost $25,000.

“That’s the biggest one we’ve ever seen,” said John Fritsch, a grain and steer farmer from Caledonia who said he and his son, Chris, attend the show every year to stay up to date on new technology because “it’s always changing.”

Admission to the farm show is free, although visitors must pay $5 for parking.

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