Mar 9, 2023
North American strawberry conference sees high turnout

This year’s gathering of strawberry industry professionals attending the North American Strawberry Symposium (NASS) and North American Strawberry Growers Association (NASGA) annual meeting was successful and mostly finished ahead of the “atmospheric river” of torrential rains forecast to strike a large part of central and northern California.

Forecasters predict the storm’s downpours and torrential rains could cause floods, mudslides and other hazards at the end of the March 7-10 convention. Because of the expected continuous rains preventing access to muddy fields, show organizers cancelled the March 10 tours of Santa Maria, California, strawberry growing operations and a tour of research conducted at Cal Poly’s Strawberry Center.

Conference attendance is high, said Kevin Schooley, executive director of the Welland, Ontario, Canada-based NASGA. Up to 375 attendees from more than 17 countries, including South Africa, Australia and Canada, trekked to the central California coastal city to learn the latest on strawberry research and production practices.

“We have had extraordinary turnout,” said Schooley. “This show is seeing very strong attendance. It’s close to the best we have ever had for the symposium.”

Despite the weather forecast and tour cancelation, the NASS was running without problems, he said.

“The attendance shows the strong industry involvement and the vibrance in the industry,” said Schooley. “They see a lot of research going on. With Covid easing, people get to see colleagues they haven’t seen in a while. This show brings together people from different countries. The participants enjoy sharing information and networking. Many growers find suppliers here.”

Alex Russomagno, business development and strategy for Apeel Sciences, said she appreciates the fact the show draws strawberry people globally.

“This show is good,” she said. “Having representation outside of California is really helpful. There’s so much data. It’s good to hear, listen and understand the landscape of the industry which is here. It’s great to see and the expertise they have here, because a reputable voice and representation of the industry is important.”

This was the first time southeast Ohio strawberry grower Todd Stacy of Stacy Family Farm in Marietta, Ohio, has attended the conference, though his father, Bill Stacy, has long participated.

“This is very good,” he said. “We go to many strawberry conferences. This show is very interesting. It’s definitely a lot more in-depth here than some others.”

Stacy attended one of the sessions on automation in production and harvesting. “The technological information is very impressive,” he said. We have some ideas for niche marketing that we can put strawberries in, but labor would be an issue.”

The show featured numerous sessions on technology as well as other agronomic- and labor-related topics, including pest and disease management, fungicides, insecticides, weed control, breeding, genetics and genomics and organics.

TOP PHOTO : Gerald Holmes, director of the Cal Poly Strawberry Center, left, and Eric Tedford of Summit Agro USA, talk at a session during the March 7-10 North American Strawberry Symposium in San Luis Obispo, California.

SECOND PHOTO: Larry Shouldice of Shouldice Farms in Richmond, Ontario, Canada, left, and Kevin Schooley, executive director of the North American Strawberry Growers Association, talk at the March 7-10 North American Strawberry Symposium in San Luis Obispo, California.

– By Doug Ohlemeier, assistant editor



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