As the new year gets under way, take a minute and circle the first weekend in March on your calendar.

March 1-2 will be the dates for the big 50th anniversary Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, to be held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The event, co-sponsored by the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and Delta Farm Press, is the largest indoor exhibit of agricultural products, equipment, and services in the Mid-South, and the largest cotton equipment trade show in the nation. Several thousand people attend the show each year.

Showgoers will find a convention center full of new equipment, as manufacturers continue improving and expanding their product lines.

“We'll have the largest array of equipment exhibits ever,” says Lee Todd, show manager and executive vice president of the ginners association. “There's always a lot of interest in equipment — it really gets everyone's attention.”

Most major agrichemical and seed companies will also be represented at the event, offering growers the latest information about their products.

Todd expects more than 400 exhibits, a far cry from the 60 or so that were in the first-ever show in 1952, and of course many of today's exhibits are far larger.

“The story of the show has been one of constant growth,” Todd says. “It filled a need for Mid-South farmers and ginners, allowing them an opportunity to meet face to face with key agribusiness companies and see their products. It also gave the companies a prime opportunity to meet with their customers just prior to a new growing season.

“Everyone who's been associated with the show, from 1952 to the present, can be proud of the success it has become.”

Five of the 1952 exhibitors have been in every show since and will again be represented at this year's show: L. P. Brown Company; Continental Gin Company; Delta and Pine Land Company; International Harvester Company; and Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Company.

With its annual Ag Update sessions, the yearly show has also provided farmers the latest information on legislative and policy developments in Washington, crop price outlooks, and new technology.

The lineup for the Ag Update program Friday, March 1, includes Memphis cotton merchant William Dunavant, who will give the cotton outlook; Richard Bell, Riceland Foods, Stuttgart, Ark., who will provide his analysis of rice, wheat, and soybean markets; and Mississippi producer/ginner Kenneth Hood, the new National Cotton Council chairman, who will give an overview of Council programs and legislative initiatives.

The Saturday morning, March 2, session will include Roy Cantrell, the new agricultural research director for Cotton Incorporated; Mississippi producer Bill Hawks, who is currently serving as USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs; and Bruce Scherr, president and chief executive officer for Sparks Companies, 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.

Member associations of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association will be holding their annual meetings in conjunction with the Farm & Gin Show. They include the Arkansas-Missouri Cotton Ginners Association, the Mississippi Cotton Ginners Association, the Tennessee Cotton Ginners Association, and the Louisiana Cotton Ginners Association. Most association meetings and events, including an honors reception/banquet, will be held at the historic Peabody Hotel.

“We hope everyone will be making plans to attend our 2001 show,” Todd said.

Sledge Taylor, Como, Miss. producer/ginner and president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, says today's farmers “have to stay abreast of the many changes that are taking place in agriculture, and the Farm and Gin Show is one way they can get the latest information of interest to them.”

Todd said the ginner association is “very pleased to again have Delta Farm Press, one of the Mid-South's most influential and respected agricultural publications, as the co-sponsor of the show.” Delta Farm Press reaches key farmers and agribusiness readers in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and the Missouri Bootheel each week.

Delta Farm Press will also publish the official program for the show, which will be distributed to all subscribers in the Feb. 15 issue and to the Alabama circulation of the Feb. 13 Southeast Farm Press. The program will also be available to all show attendees.