Sep 12, 2016
Great Lakes EXPO schedule packed with educational events

In addition to a large trade show with more than 450 exhibitors, this year’s Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO will offer a variety of educational opportunities and special events. Once again, the Michigan Greenhouse Growers EXPO will be held in conjunction with the Great Lakes EXPO. One registration fee covers both conferences.

The 2016 EXPO is scheduled for Dec. 6-8 at DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here are some details on the educational opportunities and special events being planned (visit GLExpo.com for more details and registration information).

Farm Market Bus Tour (Dec. 5): A pre- conference bus tour of regional farm market operations will be part of the program for farm marketers. The bus tour will be held Monday, Dec. 5, the day before the EXPO opens. It provides a great opportunity to learn best practices from successful farm markets, as well as to network with other farm marketers. Last year, 137 participants boarded three buses for the full-day tour. Different markets and areas of Michigan are visited each year. For information on this year’s tour, visit www.bustour.greatamericanmediaservices.com.

2016 Berry Conference (Dec. 4-6): This year, the North American Strawberry Growers Association and North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association will come together to hold the North American Berry Conference in association with the Great Lakes EXPO.

An opening reception on Sunday will be followed by caneberry and strawberry educational sessions on Monday at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Highlights include grower spotlights, a discussion of berry health benefits and sessions on tunnel production with grower panels and research discoveries.

On Tuesday, the berry conference continues with full tracks of strawberry and caneberry educational sessions. Two limited-registration workshops, “Getting Started in Raspberry & Blackberry Production” and “Create a Food Safety Plan for Your Farm” will also be offered.

Tuesday’s educational sessions are open to all EXPO registrants; the Sunday/Monday berry conference program and Tuesday workshops require registration.

Education sessions (Dec. 6-8): As usual, a number of commodity sessions will be offered, including sessions on berries, tree fruit and grapes (morning and afternoon) on Tuesday, apple sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, and blueberry (morning and afternoon), tart cherry, sweet cherry and peach and plum sessions on Wednesday. An organic tree fruit session is planned for Thursday as part of a full-day program for organic growers. For cider makers, a sweet cider session will be offered on Wednesday and a hard cider session on Thursday.

The always popular Fruit Variety Showcase is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. The showcase offers a display of fruit varieties and strains from various locations in North America. A number of the most promising varieties will be discussed and sampled.

Sessions on general topics include growing for your customers, chestnuts and food safety on Tuesday; and pollinators and pollination and wildlife damage management on Thursday. In addition, Michigan Greenhouse Growers EXPO sessions will be open to everyone attending the Great Lakes EXPO.

For growers with farm markets, morning and afternoon farm marketing sessions will be offered on both Tuesday and Wednesday. These sessions will offer a number of interesting presentations, including several “show and tell” discussions by successful farm marketers. A farm marketing roundtable to share successful marketing ideas will be held Tuesday evening. On Thursday, four in-depth workshops are being planned.

EXPO keynote presentation (Dec. 6): Kevin Folta will discuss “The Future of Genetic Improvement in Horticultural Crops.” The keynote presentation will immediately follow the Tuesday morning education sessions.

Folta is chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Folta will also make the keynote presentation in the opening farm marketing session on Tuesday morning, with a presentation titled, “How to Handle Difficult Conversations with Your Customers.” This will be an interactive discussion about GMO, hormone-free and organic/non-organic foods.

Michigan Apple Growers Luncheon (Dec. 6): This is a free luncheon program open to all Michigan apple growers. The luncheon is sponsored by the Michigan Apple Committee (MAC) and a number of industry sponsors. A featured speaker will entertain and inform those attending. This year’s program also features the crowning of the 2017 Michigan Apple Queen by the reigning Michigan Apple Queen, Sara Reisinger. There will be industry updates from MAC and the U.S. Apple Association.

Meet the Buyers Reception (Dec. 6): Michigan Food and Farming Systems will host the annual Meet the Buyers Reception. This event connects buyers to regional fruit, vegetable and other specialty crop producers looking to sell their products.

Prayer Breakfast (Dec. 7): This event offers a time for fellowship and prayer for our industry and country. Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, will present the message at this year’s breakfast program.

EXPO Banquet (Dec. 7): Ron Hendrick, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will speak during the banquet program. The program also features recognition of this year’s industry-sponsored scholarship recipients and special award presentations to growers and others who have made outstanding contributions to Michigan’s fruit and vegetable industries.





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