|By TIM THORNBERRY
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The dead of winter seems an unlikely time to think of fresh fruits and vegetables but it will be the main focus for those producers set to attend the 2007 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show Jan. 8-9.
Growers from around the state will convene at the Holiday Inn North in Lexington to gain valuable production and marketing advice, as well as to meet buyers.
The conference also serves as the 151st annual meeting of the Kentucky State Horticulture Society (KSHS) and the 36th annual meeting of the Kentucky Vegetable Growers Association (KVGA), including the Kentucky Grape and Wine Short Course on Jan. 9.
John Strang, University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture horticulture specialist said the conference holds something for everyone regardless of their experience level.
“Success with fruits and vegetables is most always based on a producer’s management skills, especially being able to do things on time,” said Strang. “This conference is for beginners and experienced growers alike. We think we have something to share with everyone, no matter how steep their learning curve.”
Conference sessions cover farmers’ markets, winemaking, organic farming and gardening, and vegetable, tree fruit and small fruit production.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) serves as a conference cosponsor, along with the UK College of Agriculture and Kentucky State University.
Conference participants can meet with buyers, experts and others at the KDA exhibit booth between sessions.
Buyers from Wal-Mart, Coastline and Cabbage Inc. will be on hand as well as representatives of Creech’s Compost will be in attendance to talk about its giveaway program.
The state’s produce auctions and the Kentucky Farmers’ Market Association (KFMA) will be represented, along with representatives of Kentucky’s new Good Agricultural Practices Program who will offer information about training and certification. Bonnie Sigmon of the UK Cooperative Extension Service will demonstrate how to build a mini-hay baler.
KDA staff will also be available to explain and take applications for its advertising cost share program. All Kentucky Proud items including four sizes of stickers, hats, grocery bags, cool bags, plant stakes, and price cards, will be on sale during lunch each day at cost, since they don’t have to be shipped.
The day before the conference starts, KFMA will hold its inaugural meeting Jan. 7 at the same venue, the Holiday Inn North on Newtown Pike in Lexington.
Janet Eaton, farmers’ market specialist for KDA, said the newly formed association will review proposed bylaw changes and prefiled legislation affecting farmers’ markets that will be before the 2007 General Assembly.
“Coming together on the evening prior to the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference and Tradeshow is a good fit,” Eaton said. ”Many farmers’ market participants attend the popular conference each year, making the meeting convenient.”
The association got its start following regional summits sponsored by KDA early in 2006. Since that time KDA has supported the growth of the organization with technical assistance and a $1,000 organization grant.
“A lot of the meeting is to decide the course of the organization over the coming year,” Eaton said. “The meeting is the opportunity for members to become involved in issues that are of concern to themselves and other Kentucky farmers.”
The number of the state’s farmers’ markets increased by 10.2 percent in 2006 over the previous year with gross receipts for 2005 totally nearly $7 million according to KDA’s 2006 farmers’ market report.
State fruit and vegetable sales are expected to reach $28 million in 2006 and increase to $30 million in 2007.
For more information about the conference, or to request registration materials, contact Mary Ann Kelley 270-365-7541, ext. 216. The conference program is available online at the following address, www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture/kvgaprogramjan07.pdf
This farm news was published in the Jan. 3, 2007 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.