By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The premier show for Michigan fruit and vegetable growers and farm marketers is Dec. 4-6 at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids.
The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo offers more than 60 educational sessions and workshops during its three-day run, as well as a trade show featuring nearly 400 exhibitors on four acres.
This year’s conference will provide fresh fruit and vegetable growers, shippers, packers, processors and retailers with timely information about specific crop production. In addition, a number of sessions will focus on topics of general interest such as Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program verification, food safety, growing crops under high and low tunnels, hops, labor, Farm Bill, crop insurance and marketing crops from farms to institutions.
An organic education program will feature topics such as organic certification, marketing, current issues in organic fruit production and strategies for organic vegetable production.
Sessions all three days will cover marketing in a difficult year with a short crop, new techniques in customer service, innovative marketing, social media, growing a bakery, sweet cider, cheese-making, hard cider and more. A roundtable Dec. 4 will allow marketers to share ideas with colleagues in a town-hall format. On Dec. 5, participants may observe judging of the Michigan Cider Contest.
Michigan State University extension educators have planned more than 60 educational sessions and workshops. Many offer restricted use pesticide recertification points for private and commercial applicators and continuing education units for certified crop advisors.
An industry outlook luncheon is planned for noon Dec. 4. The event is intended to bring together grower leaders and others with an interest in Michigan agriculture.
This year’s featured speaker will be Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE). He will discuss some of the industry’s major labor concerns in 2012 and what to plan for in 2013.
Award-winning communicator Bill Butterworth will speak during the Expo banquet Dec. 6. The program will also include recognition of people who have made outstanding contributions to Michigan’s fruit and vegetable industries, as well as industry scholarship recipients and the winner of this year’s cider contest. Banquet tickets are $35 and advance purchase is recommended when pre-registering for the conference.
The conference trade show will feature a large farm equipment display, chemical and seed company representatives, nursery professionals, insurance providers and a wide variety of products for retail farm markets including specialty foods, jams and jellies, supplies, animated characters and more.
Other special events will include the Michigan State Horticultural Society annual meeting; the Midwest Pickle Assoc., Pickle & Pepper Research Committee for MSU meeting; a Meet the Buyers reception; and a Michigan Farm Marketing and Agritourism Assoc. gathering, all on Dec. 4.
On Dec. 5, the day begins with a prayer breakfast, followed by the Michigan Vegetable Council Annual Meeting, and the Michigan Apple Growers Luncheon, which will feature the crowning of the Michigan Apple Queen.
The expo is cosponsored by the Michigan State Horticultural Society and the Michigan Vegetable Council in cooperation with MSU extension. Registration is required and may be done online at www.glexpo.com or by calling 734-677-0503.