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Networking and learning at conference for specialty agriculturists
Indiana Correspondent

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Larry Brandenburg of Shelbyville is president of the Organic Assoc. of Kentucky (OAK), just one of several agriculture producer and marketing trade groups that met at the 2013 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference in early January.

The conference, organized by the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture, took advantage of the one season growers often have free time on their hands. Under the umbrella of one trade conference there were horticulturists, vegetable farmers, direct marketing farmers, organic growers, fruit farmers and wine producers.

Vegetable interests were present in the form of the Kentucky Vegetable Growers Assoc., the Kentucky Farmers’ Market Assoc. and the Kentucky State Horticulture Society. As did the other groups, OAK held its winter business meeting during the conference.
According to Brandenburg, members talked about the state of the organics industry in the Kentucky, and an upcoming organics meeting they will have in March at Berea College, which happens to have a working organic farm on the campus.

“It is good to get our member-growers together and talk about the challenges they faced during the past year and about the challenges they may face in the future,” he said.

Brandenburg said OAK growers appreciated the variety of workshops available during the conference. Many of the educational sessions were presented by UK specialists. Some the topics included creating one’s own corn maze, vegetable trial results, high-tunnel greenhouses, irrigation methods and risks and how to control deer, crow and raccoon pests.

UK extension horticulture specialist Shawn Wright gave a presentation on his recent research of foliar feeding of vegetables. He used slides and other visuals as he told the audience of about 400 people how to calculate the amount of nutrient they would need to apply to plants for optimal health, when using the foliar method.
Foliar feeding can be defined as a method of applying fertilizer in liquid form directly to the leaves of plants.

Wright’s other topic at the conference was about weed control in organic systems. He said, “If people want to manage weeds in an organic setting they had better be prepared to have lots of labor in the field.”

Tim Coolong, another horticulture extension specialist at UK, lectured on vegetable production techniques.
“I made a few presentations this year,” said Coolong, who has lectured on organics at previous years’ conferences. “But this time I focused on variety trials, irrigation management and fertility nutrition.”

Coolong shared his sessions with fellow UK horticulturists Chris Smigell and Crystal Sparks. The trio discussed the results of crop trial on super sweet corn, bell peppers, garlic, heirloom tomatoes and turnips.

The third annual Organic Conference will be on the Berea College campus, at Berea, on March 1-2. Atina Diffley, author of Turn Here, Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works, will be the special guest speaker.

Registration is free for OAK members before Feb. 17. The fee for non-members is $25. Students and guests pay $10 and kids under 18 are free. To learn more, visit