Smith lauds large scale popularity of Ag Expo

Senior Editor

CHARLES CITY, Va. — John Smith assesses the 2014 Virginia Ag Expo in this way: “I am 100-percent satisfied.”
As the veteran manager of the annual expo — this was his 10th — he puts the final and official stamp of approval on the event., traditionally Virginia’s largest annual agricultural event.
Attendance was estimated at 1,800 and there were 151 exhibitors and sponsors.
In his terms, was it the largest Ag Expo in John Smith’s decade at the helm?
“I think so,” he said.
The 2014 Expo was held at the Downing family farm in Lottsburg, in Northumberland County. Bill Downing, a member of the family who is a retired hospital administrator living on the Eastern Shore, subscribed to Smith’s assessment of the event.
“It was huge,” Downing said. He guessed at attendance of 2,500.
“It was a beautiful day” and he remembers shuttle buses going on the crop tour stuffed with farmers.
“It was awesome,” he said.
Smith said that he no longer has to search for farms on which to locate the annual expo. He said the Downing family came to him in 2010 and said they’d like to host the gathering some year.
They were on the list, Smith said.
And he’s already working on the 2015 Expo, It will be held at the Bob Chambers’ family farm in Locust Grove, and Smith has already visited the farm to take field measurements “and I have already signed up an exhibitor,” he said.
Smith recalled that it was Ellen Davis, former executive director of the Virginia Corn Growers and Virginia Small Grains Associations, who lured him into taking the Ag Expo job. Smith recalled, Davis came visiting in 2004 and when she was leaving, she asked Smith to walk her to her car. Along the way, she asked him to take over the expo for 2005. He said he would have to think about it.
Back in the house, Smith’s wife turned to him and asked: “Well did you take it?”
“Take what?” Smith asked.
“The Ag Expo.”
“I was hoodwinked,” Smith says.
Nonetheless, Smith, who is 68 and despite fighting a very bad back, gives no indication he is ready to relinquish the Ag Expo leadership.
One reason for visitng Chambers’ farm in Orange County so early is to make sure there is room for the big tent.
This year, “we had a tent 60 by 200 feet and it was packed,” Smith said.