Around this time last year, hundreds of angry, striking farmers rolled into Washington attempting to halt the flow of business to protest low farm prices.

Instead, the farmers launched one of Washington's better convention and tourism business years by filling up the city's hotels and eating in local restaurants.

This year, however, the Washington Area Convention & Visitors Association launched its business year in a slicker, more predictable way. It has published for the first time an 80-page color magazine for distribution to about 15,000 trade and travel associations.

The farmers "came in considerable numbers and that gave us a tremendous start," said association Executive Vice President Austin Kenny. The magazine "is a reminder that Washington's here and Washington wants your business."

Last year, the city chalked up a 6 percent increase in overnight visitors, and the economic value of the tourist business passed the billion-dollar mark.

A record 850 conventions brought more than 750,000 delegates here and contributed $265 million to the total tourist business.

Last year "was an excellent year," Kenny said. But he added that "we look for 1979 to maintain the same level of 1978. Growth will be dependent on the national economy, more people traveling, companies letting more people go to conventions."

In an effort ot keep up with the top five convention cities in the nation -- New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Atlanta (Washington is sixth) -- the association decided to distribute the magazine.

"The firm that did it for us did it in several other cities," Kenny said. "It was very well received. We thought it was a good idea."

About 15,000 copies of the magazine were distributed nationally to the travel and convention organizarions that annually fill Washington's streets, hotels and restaurants with name-tagged, funny-hat-wearing conventioneers and sometimes their spouses.

In the past decade, the annual number of conventions or trade association shows held here increased from 674 to 824, and the number of conventioneers increased from 512,000 in 1967 to more than 750,000 last year.

Because Washington has no facility that can seat more than 5,000 persons, it is limited to smaller conventions, Kenny said. One of the city's larger associations attracted to the city this year is the American Library Association, which will hold its mid-year meeting next week. It is expected to fill 2,700 hotel rooms, Kenny said.

Both the American Bankers Association and the National Association of Broadcasters, two of the largest convention-holding groups in the nation, have declined invitations to meet here because facilities are inadequate.

The ad-filled magazine interspersed with photographs of the city's national monuments and red, white and blue star-spangled headings, is meant to attract trade that may be charmed by New York's biggness, Chicago's wild night life, or the atmosphere and climates of Dallas, Atlanta and San Francisco.

The magazine touts Washington's usual drawing cards, historical monuments, museums, embassies and an ambience which, the magazine states, makes Washington "America's Home Town."

The publication also boasts the city's modern attractions such as the half-completed 100-mile Metro rapid rail system, or plenty of scenic jogging room, the Antional Gallery of Art and its new east wing, the National Air Space Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum.

In addition to texts on Washington's beauty, restaurants, accommodations and sports attractions, shinypaged ads from local businesses add to the sales pitch.

"In 1980, Sheraton will make the nation's capital the convention capital of Amercia," boasts a two-page color ad for the soon-to-be-completed Sheraton Washington.

A full-page color ad for International Inn shows photographs of banquet and restaurant facilities as well as bikini-clad women louging around a pool and a woman in a negligee relaxing on a bed.

Kenny said the magazine is aimed at Washington's best convention business, "national trade associations that move their conventions around the country and hundreds of specialized meetings."

Washington is hoping to increase its hold on the tourist and convention business by as much as 390,000 persons a year when the city's convention center is completed and more when the Pennsylvania Avenue redevelopment is finished. Until then, "There's no size that's too small," Kenny said.

JEWELRY BOOM: Retail sales in the final days before Christmas may or may not have saved the holiday season from being rather dismal. Only when official government figures are available in a few weeks will we know for sure.

But at least one local jewelry chain has provided figures to show that its business never was better than on Friday, Dec. 23. Theodore Nye Jewelers, founded 30 years ago as a small watch-repair business, said it s average sales percustomer on Dec. 23 were $356. At Tiffany's, in New York, average sales per customer that day were $185.

Owner Theodore Nye said he thinks the figures show area jewelry store customers, at least, have overcome fears about inflation and possible recession. Nye, which operates five outlets in the D.C. area and Harrisburg, will open a new downtown D.C. store at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW in late February or March.

POST MICRO-EDITION: Beginning with the new year, The Washington Post will be published on microfilm under an agreement with Newspaper Archive Developments Ltd., a subsidiary of the Times Newspaper of London.Plans also call for an indexing operation to begin "as soon as possible."

The London firm, whose newspapers currently are closed in a labor dispute, will be joined in the venture by Research Publications Inc. of Woodbridge, Conn., which already produces the Times of London and other publications on microfilm in North America.