GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The premier show for Michigan fruit and vegetable growers and farm marketers is Dec. 5-7 at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids.
The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo, held in conjunction with the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo, presents more than 70 educational sessions and workshops during its three-day run, as well as a trade show featuring more than 450 exhibitors on four acres of exhibit space.
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 farm marketing, greenhouse production and best practices, accessing new markets, labor, organic production, Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verification, soil health, social media and more.
For the 10th year, a Dec. 4 pre-conference farm market bus tour offers participants the opportunity to network with other farm marketers, while learning how some innovative farmers get their products onto the tables of consumers using creative and unique marketing strategies. Host farms include Schwallier’s Country Basket, Lenderink Tree Farm, Jawor Brothers Blueberry & Country Store, Muskegon Farmers Market and Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo.
The cost is $179 per person and includes lunch and snacks. Registration is limited. For more information, contact Jennifer Dickie by calling 734-677-0503 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
An organic education program features a session on large-scale organic transition on Dec. 6, which will look at what’s involved in successfully transitioning acres on a larger-scale basis from conventional cropping to organic production. Additional organic sessions will be on Dec. 7.
For farm marketers, sessions will cover a variety of topics, including accessing new markets, coping with back pain on the job, food safety, hoop houses, farm labor, farm to institution, MAEAP verification, agricultural technology and managing wildlife damage. In addition a sweet cider session will be held on Dec. 6 and a hard cider session is scheduled on Dec. 7.
Presentations will be made by researchers and extension educators from Michigan State University extension, other land grant universities and industry representatives. There will also be presentations by farm marketers and several grower panels. Many of the sessions will offer credits for Michigan and Ohio private and commercial pesticide applicators and certified crop advisors.
Dr. Val Farmer, a former Farm World “Farm & Ranch Life” columnist who has specialized in rural mental health topics and has given a strong voice and presence to agriculture since the early 1980s, will be the keynote speaker during the opening farm marketing session on Dec. 5. He will speak again during farm marketing sessions the final two days of the conference.
Farmer’s column and public speaking helped farmers cope during the farm crisis of the 1980s and his book, Honey, I Shrunk the Farm – a Guide to Rural Stress, is a compilation of his most pertinent articles on farm stress.
His presentations will include “Being Strong During Tough Times: How Farmers Weather the Storm,” during which he will discuss positive coping strategies for farm families while facing the threat of loss of livelihood and the family farm because of economic pressures, and “Advice for Family Farm Businesses, Operate Like a Business: Key Business Practices for Family Farmers,” which will delve into family business practices and structure that facilitates teamwork, organization and cooperation among family members and employees including success planning, well-run family business meetings, meaningful delegation, inclusion of in-laws and team building.
He will also present “Managing with HEART: Making Caring Communication the Heart of Your Farm,” which will explore listening, speaking, team building and conflict resolution skills to bring out the best in family members and employees.
The annual Prayer Breakfast kicks off the day on Dec. 6 at 7 a.m. with Pastor Doug Cuthbert of Sisters Lake Community Church officiating. Tickets are $19 per person and may be purchased through pre-registration or on Dec. 5 at the Expo registration booth.
The Expo banquet will be Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. and will feature Michigan foods and wines. The program will include recognition of people who have made outstanding contributions to Michigan’s fruit and vegetable industries, as well as recognition of industry scholarship recipients and the winner of this year’s cider contest.
Banquet tickets are $40 and advance purchase is recommended when pre-registering for the conference. A limited number of tickets will be available at registration until noon on Dec. 6.
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 much more.
Other special events during the conference will include the Michigan Apple Growers Luncheon, which will feature the crowning of the Michigan Apple queen; the Midwest Pickle Assoc. Pickle & Pepper Research Committee for MSU meeting; the Michigan State Horticultural Society annual meeting; a Meet the Buyers reception; and the Michigan Vegetable Council Annual Meeting.
The expo is cosponsored by the Michigan State Horticultural Society and the Michigan Vegetable Council in cooperation with extension.
The trade show is open Dec. 5-6 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Dec. 7 from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Educational sessions begin daily at 9 a.m. For more information, visit www.glexpo.com or call 734-239-8027.