Jennifer Fawkers, Marketing Manager, World Ag Expo®
After their absence in 2021 due to the pandemic, the World Ag Expo® in Tulare is back! Jennifer Fawkes has been with Agri-Center® and the World Ag Expo® for the last five years of her career. The Show’s Marketing Manager runs a 100% female team! Women in Ag spoke with her about the show and how she sees the role of women in agriculture.
Jennifer, introduce yourself!
My name is Jennifer Fawkes, I am 42 years old from Visalia, California (USA) and I am the Marketing Manager at World Ag Expo® Tulare. I intended to be a classroom teacher and earned a Bachelor’s in History and a Masters in Education Administration. After a dozen years in the newspaper industry, I was excited to come back to the Central Valley of California and work in agriculture. Both sides of my family are only two generations removed from the farm, and my sister married a farmer in Iowa, so we’re both returning to rural roots.
How did you come to join the World Ag Expo®?
I worked at the International Agri-Center® – the parent company of World Ag Expo® – for a year right out of grad school. I got to do one show and loved the experience. Luckily, when I was ready for a change in 2016, the sponsorship role was open! I have been back in Tulare since October 2016 and have moved from the dual role of Sponsorship and Exhibitor Services Manager to Marketing Manager.
Could you tell us more about World Ag Expo®?
World Ag Expo® is the world’s largest annual agricultural exposition and takes place in Tulare, CA, USA every year. It has over 1.200 exhibitors on 2.6 million square feet (2.415.479 m2, red.) of exhibit space. Over 105.000 people from more then 60 countries attend the show, where exhibitors and seminars focus on the latest in farm equipment, technology, the dairy business, livestock, crops, networking, business development, and more.
How did the pandemic affect your organisation? Did you have to rethink the expo’s format?
The pandemic was a sweeping change. More then 1.000 volunteers have been dedicated to World Ag Expo® since 1968, and this was the first time the show did not go on. It was a financial loss for our local economy, but also the right choice given the situation. Our staff is very close, so working from home was not our preferred change, but it did help us to be more creative and develop new ways to serve our exhibitors and attendees. We moved to a digital show in 2021 and created new content throughout the year. The best new options will stay, but we’re excited to be back to a live show!
How many visitors of World Ag Expo® are usually women? Could you explain those numbers?
We don’t register attendees so we don’t have an exact number, but at least 35% of visitors are women. Farms are a family affair, so it’s not surprising we have a great number of women on the grounds. A group of our female volunteers have always hosted a pavilion to highlight how they choose to support the family farm through food and the art of making a home. We complement this area with a seminar room hosted by Women in Ag for Mentoring and Empowerment (WAME). They hold sessions focusing on women in ag, policy, agronomy, and more. And since all tractors, implements, seeds, etc. are for men and women, everyone in ag can find something to enjoy!
Do you notice differences in perception between men and women in agriculture and at the fair? Is there room for improvement, do you think?
In my experience, as long as you know your stuff or ask insightful questions, you will be respected and listened to. The difference I notice at our show is men being chivalrous and polite – helping ladies avoid puddles on rainy days, opening doors, and generally being helpful. There are always outliers, but I enjoy my experience in ag!
Your teams are all women: was that a choice? Do you get reactions – positive or negative – about that?
Our goal is to hire capable professionals that will move the organization forward. It just so happens that a great number of our office staff are women. Our male staff is amazing too, and together we put on a world class event. I haven’t noticed reactions about the makeup of our staff, more so that an actual human answers the phone and is ready to take care of business.
Does World Ag Expo® do something special for or about women in agriculture?
In 2019, FarmHer exhibited at the show and held a Grow by FarmHer half-day session. 100 young women were able to learn from women in ag and understand the value of their place in the industry. With the World Ag Women pavilion and Women in Ag seminars, we serve a diverse set of interests for men and women. We’re always looking for more ways to serve the different needs of our attendees and we have had great feedback.
What can we expect for the next fair?
Our theme for 2022 is “Back in Ag-Tion” because we’re back in person and ready to see everyone! More exhibitors have asked for demonstration space and permission to have movement in their spaces, so we’ll have lots to see and try. Autonomous equipment, ag tech, and electric vehicles are showing up in a big way, and it is reflected in our Top-10 New Products winners. We’re also adding the WW Livestock Demonstration Pavilion for the next show. We’ll have livestock on the grounds and demonstrations will be hosted by the California Reined Cow Horse Association, the California Youth Ag Expo, Fresno State, and more.
I’m blessed to work at the International Agri-Center® and so lucky to be part of this team. We’re ready for a safe and healthy show in Tulare February 8-10, 2022!
About World Ag Expo®
The World Ag Expo® started in 1968 as the California Field and Row Crop Equipment Show on the Tulare County Fairgrounds. Over the years, the show gradually included all fields of agriculture and farming tools. The first demonstrations of exhibited farm equipment began in 1969. Slowly but surely, the show outgrew the original fairgrounds until it was relocated to the International Agri-Center® in Tulare. The name of the show changed to World Ag Expo® in 2001. By that time, 52 exhibitors from 15 foreign countries and 900 attendees from 61 nations were present. Almost eighty interpreters translated for attendees speaking 55 different languages. The show officially became global.
The World Ag Expo® will take place from February 8-10, 2022. Tickets are on sale now for general admission, international packages, and ag tours at https://www.worldagexpo.com/attendees/tickets/. To learn more about the show, visit www.worldagexpo.org and see 2022 exhibitors and the schedule of events at https://wae22.mapyourshow.com/8_0/#/.
This article appeared in Women in Ag Magazine 2021-04. Click here for an overview of the 2021 magazines.