Show Director Matt Jungmann
If you’ve been to the Farm Progress Show you know the magnitude of the grand agriculture exhibition that alternates between Boone, Iowa, and Decatur, Illinois, year after year. Your internal monologue has also likely stated, “I’m glad I’m not the one organizing all of this.”
At this year’s Farm Progress Show, held in Decatur, AcreForward’s Mike DiPaola caught up with the one in charge, Farm Progress National Events Director, Matt Jungmann for a live podcast recording.
Jungmann’s quick to share that he is the one in trouble when things go sideways at the show and offers that even though countless hours are spent by not just a team, but a community of people, to ensure the show goes off without a hitch, Mother Nature is the one in charge of dictating show success…and she delivered for 2023. The gates opened Tuesday at 8 a.m. under sunny skies and perfect 80-degree temperatures.
An Outdoor Show Like No Other
What started as the first outdoor farm show in 1953 has grown to be the template for other outdoor farm shows around the world.
“It’s special to be a part of something that is emulated around the world,” Jungmann told DiPaola.
Now in his 19th year, Jungmann is responsible for the Farm Progress Show, Husker Harvest Days, Farm Futures Show, and the New York Farm Show. The planning never ends.
“Every industry has its tradeshow, usually in Las Vegas or Orlando. The farm industry has the Farm Progress Show, and it’s based in the Midwest,” Jungmann shares. “Farmers come to Decatur (or Boone, depending on the year), to see the latest product introductions. We have a lot of new products unveiled at the Farm Progress Show.”
Historically, Jungmann says that he and his team expect to see around 150,000 people come through over the 3 days with Wednesday being the heaviest traffic day.
“We see around 50% come through on Wednesday, 30% on Tuesday and the remaining 20% on Thursday. I always tell friends and family to come on Thursday, the demonstrations and experience are the same; there are just fewer people to wait in line with,” he says.
An Iowa native, Jungmann says that Boone will always hold a special place in his heart, but Decatur sees the biggest crowds between the two locations—a fact he attributes to population and farm size.
“As you move west, farms get bigger and people get fewer,” he says of the attendance disparity between the two locations. “There are just more people in and around Decatur.”
You Never Know Who You’ll See at FPS
With seven miles of asphalt roads at the FPS, Jungmann recommends making a plan and sticking to it. There’s a lot to see and having a game plan is the best way to ensure nothing is missed.
He says that since creating the permanent sites in Boone and Decatur, the exhibitors have stepped up and made the show new and enticing with their lot additions.
“I was impressed with how the exhibitors responded when we went to permanent sites,” he says. “There are plasma screens everywhere, air-conditioned tents, and interactive exhibits. What makes it (FPS) new is the work that the exhibitors put into it.”
And why wouldn’t exhibitors continue to up their displays? Ag’s largest outdoor show is also the site of the biggest gathering of ag media professionals and often sees investors walking its streets, looking for the next opportunity to finance a business.
For Jungmann, the most unique experiences involved former President of the United States George W. Bush.
“During his presidential campaign, I got to work with George W. Bush. That was at Amana, Iowa. I got a handwritten “Thank You” note from him, and it was just wild to see the Secret Service at work,” he says. “Seeing them go to Rural King to buy overalls and wearing them with creases still in the legs trying to blend in was hysterical.”
Safety isn’t an area FPS lacks in, either. The show is made safe by teams of security guards and EMS professionals. Jungmann shares an example of how responsive and equipped the EMS teams truly are.
“In 2021, a friend of mine had a massive heart attack. There was no pulse; he was coded. Our EMS team arrived within 90 seconds, shocked him 3 times, and brought him back,” he says. “He found out that he had 100% blockage in two arteries, 90% blockage in two other arteries—they did a bypass on him and he is working the show here today. In all reality, when something like that goes down, you are safer at FPS than in your living room.”
Community Makes it Happen
Unlike other industries that hold tradeshows in Las Vegas or Orlando, the team behind the Farm Progress Show is committed to engaging and supporting both Boone and Decatur local communities. The folks parking cars, flipping burgers, and directing attendees to and from booths in those Sukup “grain gazebos” are all members of local Rotary, 4-H, churches, and other organizations.
“We have wonderful partnerships with the community. We spend over $100,000 in donations to the groups who do the work,” he says.
To hear more of the conversation between DiPaola and Jungmann, visit the AcreForward Podcast, and be sure to add the Boone, Iowa Farm Progress Show to your calendar for 2024.