The Agricultural Retailers Association’s conference and expo broke several records this year. The event attracted a record-breaking 650 attendees and a record 101 exhibit spaces. The conference was held Nov. 27-29 in San Diego, Calif., at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

2012 ARA conference and expo breaks recordsThis year’s theme was Ag Retail Top Guns: Preparing Your Business for the Future. Key industry experts offered presentations that provided insight and advice for shaping retailers’ business. New this year was four breakout sessions that allowed retailers to receive more in-depth information on key challenges agribusinesses face, including human resources and recruiting challenges, technology, fertilizer inventory risk management and performance benchmarking.

During the conference, 2012 Board Chairman Billy Pirkle from Crop Production Services, passed the chairman’s gavel to 2013 Board Chairman Johnny Council of the Lyman/Tremont Group, based in Woodland, Calif. Council joined the ARA board of directors in 2006 and has served on various ARA committees, including a year as chairman of ARA’s public policy committee. ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock, on behalf of the association, thanked Pirkle for his service.

Every year, ARA also holds special events during the conference and expo, including events for spouses. This year spouses were treated to a mimosa brunch in the hotel on Nov. 27 and a tour of Balboa Park on Nov. 28, which were sponsored by FMC.

2012 ARA conference and expo breaks recordsARAPAC events to support political candidates supportive of ARA positions included a golf tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course on Nov. 26 and a dinner and auction on the USS Midway the evening of Nov. 28.

Other additional special events were offered to attendees this year. These included a whale watching excursion, which offered a three-hour adventure to provide close-up views of the California gray whale as well as dolphins, sea lions and other mammals and included a tour of the San Diego Harbor. Attendees also had the option of touring the Henry Avocado Corporation’s farm. Participants were treated to seeing the ripening, bagging and shipping processes and were able to walk through the grove.

Another event added this year was a presentation offered by Jed Lafferty, managing director, life sciences, Planalytics, and Fred Below, Ph.D., University of Illinois. The title of the presentation was “Build a Crop Plan Around Corn Yield’s Big Factors—Weather and Nitrogen.” This presentation was held Tuesday, Nov. 27 prior to the official opening of the conference.

A total of nine credit hours of continuing education units were offered during the convention.