MACOMB, Ill. — If there’s one thing that Halie Brinkman, a
senior agriculture science major at Western Illinois University, would tell the
public to come out to next year’s WIU Ag Mech Club Farm Expo, what would it be?
“That it’s awesome, and they really need to come back every
year,” she said.
Brinkman still was on the job in her role as the vice
president of advertising and a member of the executive committee of the WIU Ag
Her job was to line up and purchase advertising, radio and
print, for the 2013 WIU Farm Expo, as well as line up and schedule interviews.
That job meant some new experiences for Brinkman, who is a
graduate of Central High School in Camp Point.
She was active in FFA in high school and participated in
landscaping the high school grounds. The experience with that FFA project has
helped Brinkman line up an internship with a Chicago-area landscaping company.
But the venture into advertising was something new.
“I didn’t really work with any of that before this, so
getting in contact with everybody was new to me,” Brinkman said. “It worked out
really well, and everybody was nice and really helpful, so it was a good
experience for me.”
Brinkman’s job wasn’t over, however, when the show opened in
Western Hall at 9 a.m. Feb. 9.
“I am still actively involved. I help out with the
information booth here, taking comments and directing people where they want to
go,” she said.
The WIU Ag Mech Club Farm Expo is a group effort from start
to finish — and beyond.
“We have a 14-member executive officer committee, every one
of them has a specific job that relates to the show, and that’s how we structure
our club,” said Bart Gill, Ag Mech Club adviser and assistant professor of ag
mechanics at WIU.
Gill said the group works as a team, but each individual has
a separate task. “Pretty much there’s something for everybody. They all have
specific jobs to do. Why things run so well for us and why the show is always so
successful is because the students want to do these jobs,” he said.
“They take it on knowing it’s a big task. They take
ownership for it, and they really, really take ownership in this show. If
something doesn’t go right, they’re disappointed.”
Gill said the show ended up with a waiting list of vendors
and that the event encapsulated a wide array of products and services for the
farm and home.
“We have a very diverse group of exhibitors, ranging from
laser art for the farm and home to insulation, nursery and landscape to the
production side of farming with the seed companies, fertilizer companies,
equipment companies and those types of things,” he said.
Gill added that the waiting list and the variety of vendors
proves that the word is getting out about the WIU Farm Expo. “We’ve been getting
a lot of contacts and have been getting contacted about what our show is all
about from new people who have interest in coming and exhibiting because they’ve
heard really good things about it and how much interest we get, how many
visitors we get at the show and the traffic we get coming through,” he said.
This year, the members of the Ag Mech Club were faced with a
hurdle to their Thursday night setup. The WIU Leathernecks men’s basketball team
hosted the University of Nebraska at Omaha. WIU won, 68-50, but the game meant
that setup was delayed a bit.
“On Thursday night, we had the basketball game here, so it
was a very late night, but at 9 p.m., when that game was over, we had about 40
to 50 students waiting here to help get everything set up. The show of support
and that pride in our School of Agriculture is just amazing,” Gill said.
Help comes not only from the club members, but from students
throughout the School of Agriculture. “We’re very fortunate that we have great
students within the school of ag. The faculty and staff here are very supportive
of the show, and so some of them will have the option to offer extra credit to
their students for coming down and assisting us. They’re willing to do that even
though they have no part in the show as faculty, but they’re willing to do that
just to provide us with some extra help,” Gill said.
He said that some 70 percent of the students in the School
of Agriculture come from a production agriculture background, and that number is
about the same for those in the Ag Mech Club. Many also come to WIU from FFA
programs, and it all contributes to why the show runs smoothly. “They understand
the multiple aspects of the agriculture industry, and so, having them involved
in this show, they understand the needs of our exhibitors, they understand what
the exhibitors are here doing and what they represent,” he said.
“Their work ethic, as well as their knowledge base of what
this show is all about, is really strong and lends to their strong ideas of how
to make the show better.”
One of those students is Daniel Mitchell, vice president of
expo operations. Mitchell is a junior from Colchester and is majoring in ag
business. He credited teamwork with making the show run smoothly.
“Everybody has a job, each of us has an extensive list of
things to do. Everybody pulls their own weight and gets their own job done. If
we delegate things out, it gets done that much quicker and easier,” he said.
Mitchell graduated from West Prairie High School in Sciota
and was a member of the FFA there. “I think being in FFA prepared me for college
in general, let alone doing something like this. In FFA I learned public
speaking skills and organization, on a smaller scale, of events going on and
then stepping it up into something like this,” he said. “If it was for FFA, I
don’t think I could do something like this today.”
Mitchell, dressed in a suit, purple dress shirt — to
represent for WIU — and tie, was making the rounds of the show, talking to
exhibitors and guests alike, running messages from the FFA members of three
different clubs who were greeting guests at the front door and signing them up
for door prizes, to Brinkman and other club members who were manning the
“I walk around and visit with some vendors, make sure
everything is going well, talk to people and get some ideas about what they want
to see at the show in the next few years,” said Mitchell, whose job started
months before the actual show. “It’s a great job to have.”
FFA was a strong presence at the show, with the Heyworth
High School FFA members having a booth where they were selling raffle tickets
for a restored tractor to the three chapters, Monmouth-Roseville,
Bushnell-Prairie City and Rushville-Industry, who took turns at the door prize
table, signing up visitors for a wide selection of door prizes.
The show would end on Sunday night, as students again
gathered to help dismantle the show.
“We try to be done before 8 p.m. We spend three to four
hours of cleanup time, which is pretty impressive to get more than 200 vendors
out, all the tables and chairs down and stacked up and everything cleaned up.
It’s very impressive to see them do that. The students show up, we say this is
what needs to be done and they get to it,” Gill said.
He said that teamwork extends throughout the WIU School of
Agriculture. “A lot of that stems from the camaraderie that’s in the School of
Agriculture. Even though the students may not be members of the Ag Mech Club,
their friends are, so they are recruiting their friends, who are willing to come
down and lend a hand and spend a couple hours helping us clean up. We really
appreciate the extra assistance we get,” he said.
Students have a few days and then they are off to another
show — the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky. “That’s one of the
ways we give back to our students for taking as much time and effort as they do
for a show like this. The Ag Mech Club provides them with a trip to Louisville
for the National Farm Machinery Show,” Gill said.
But between the wrap-up of yet one more highly successful
WIU Ag Mech Club Farm Expo and a trip to see the National Farm Machinery Show
was at least one obstacle.
“Class on Monday will be a little rough for some of us,”