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Published March 07, 2012, 06:16 AM

New farm show starts near Pierre

Focus will be 1-on-1 meetings with top ag producers in South Dakota.

By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic

Greg Geisler is betting that agriculture suppliers are up for a little one-on-one time with some of the state’s top ag producers.

“I felt there was a void in the marketplace to address the needs of the very largest growers, which a traditional trade show wouldn’t address,” he said.

Filling that void will be the focus of the first South Dakota AgXchange farm show, which will take place June 28-29 at Oahe Speedway, north of Pierre in Sully County.

A veteran of the farm show business since the early 1980s, Geisler, 54, was a co-owner and founder of Champion Farm Shows, which had farm shows like Farmfest in Minnesota and Dakotafest in Mitchell.

Geisler sold his interests in Champion, but continued in trade show marketing.

The new show will be smaller than Dakotafest, Geisler said, but more targeted. Still, the developers predict the show will draw up to 5,000 producers from a three-state area.

South Dakota AgXchange is a different animal, he believes, and promotional materials for the new show trumpet, “it’s never been done like this before.”

“We’re taking three elements and combining them,” Geisler said.

Those elements are the traditional outdoor farm trade show, private one-on-one meetings between top producers and suppliers, and on-location teaching sessions.

The AgXchange part of the show will join some of the state’s top producers and suppliers.

“I was always intrigued by the fact that the top 1 or 2 percent of the marketplace controls a lot of the buying power,” Geisler said of his years running trade shows.

“Not all buyers or attendees are created equal,” he said.

He said he believes the needs of the biggest producers aren’t being served.

The one-on-one concept, Geisler said, is an attempt to create more strategic long-term relationships between farmers, ranchers and their suppliers.

Each of the 25 farmers and ranchers selected for the first AgXchange show will have a minimum of 8,000 acres under production.

Suppliers like the concept, Geisler said, because they have a chance to meet with pre-qualified buyers, and the sales results have been fruitful.

AgXchange is a spin-off of Vertical Xchange, a company Geisler developed after selling Champion. That company’s business model brokered meetings between end users and suppliers, and Geisler transferred that concept to agriculture.

At this weekend’s DairyXchange show in Phoenix, for instance, top dairy producers will meet with major suppliers in their business.

The company has organized AgXchanges for the country’s largest producers in the vegetable, tree, fruit, dairy and greenhouse markets.

“We interview these large growers and producers, and find out where they’re having challenges with their operations and find out how suppliers can meet those challenges,” he said.

In the buyer/seller meeting segment, Geisler’s company gets paid for its brokering efforts from the $15,000 to $17,500 sponsorship fees paid by agricultural suppliers.

For the fee, the sponsors are guaranteed 10 pre-arranged private meetings with carefully screened growers or producers. Higher-level sponsorships also have access to a 5-acre demonstration area to demonstrate their wares.

The farmers and ranchers are not charged for their participation.

To date, Geisler has selected his first group of farmers and ranchers and has about half his supplier slots filled.

The most time-intensive part of the process is carefully researching and clarifying the needs of the farmers and ranchers, Geisler said, because pairings can’t be slapped together.

“We wouldn’t want to be haphazardly putting producers and suppliers together,” he said. “It’s our job to ensure that the meeting of those parties truly has merit.”

The biggest challenge has been the time it takes to evaluate the needs of the potential customer farmers that AgXchange will refer to suppliers.

“We can’t approach suppliers until we know what the client is looking for,” he said.

More information is available at www.sdagxchange.com.

Admission to the show will be $5 for adults; kids younger than 18 will be admitted free.

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