Tuesday, January 11, 2011
People swarm to the Pennsylvania Farm Show for fun and food, but for the retailers manning its 13,000 exhibits, the eight-day event is serious business.
Salesmen line the show's halls pitching products as small as a bottle of mustard to as large as a tractor. On one end of the Farm Show Complex, Dauphin County-based Valley Ag and Turf set up a display featuring John Deere Products. As families took pictures of their children sitting on his tractors Sunday afternoon, general manager Tige Kutt explained he's there to sell a wide range of products.
"We'll start with the basic consumer lawn and garden. Walk-behind mowers, walk-behind snow blowers. All the way up to the largest ag equipment that John Deere provides," he said. "Self-propelled forage harvesters, combines. The largest tractors."
It's a good day for Kutt if fifteen percent of the people who stop at his exhibit ask questions about pricing, or request further information. He says this year, potential customers seem much more optimistic about making major purchases.
Another large-scale product for sale at the Farm Show: geothermal heating systems. Andrew Drebitko of Natural Energy Solutions in Schuylkill County said with installation starting around $25,000, he's at the Show to provide information, not close sales.
"We couldn't begin to sell you a system even if we did," he explained. "I need to see the property. We need to calculate the energy needs of your home. So that needs to be done on-site."
Drebitko has been at the Farm Show for four years now, and says business increases each year, as alternative energy becomes more and more popular.
Among the other items on display in the North Hall: a 12 foot by 36 foot log cabin, with a porch, kitchenette and living room, for $19,900. Horse trailers and pit barbecues are also for sale. On the other side of the complex, past the food court and the animal stalls, vendors were hawking much smaller items. At one booth, Matt Sehenuk offered nine unique varieties of mustard, including blueberry, beer, and key lime and pineapple-flavored sauces. He said his Lycoming County company, Wild Mountain Gourmet, recently won a national award for one flavor.
"We call it a sweet and spicy mustard. It has a really sweet and classic mustard taste. It's got a spicy kick to it. And it's actually just the mustard powder itself that gives it that sensation."
Around the corner, Benjamin Smith of Torchbearer Sauces was selling nine flavors of spicy sauce and dip. Smith, Sehenuk and nearly every other food vendor spend their days passing out thousands of free samples. Sometimes the lines for the sauce-covered pretzels and chips stretch more than twenty feet. Smith said about five percent of the people who stop for samples end up buying his product.
"For the Farm Show, that's pretty much standard," he said. "Because they have a line of people behind them pretty much shoving them on. So the fact that we're able to get a chance to talk to some of them and sell to them and get them to buy products, it's a really great way to for us to - bring in some extra money."
Smith's Cumberland County company sells its products in Whole Foods stores right now, but he's hoping to expand his reach.