This year's Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO is set for December 7–9 at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids.
The EXPO, the premier show for fruit and vegetable growers, offers a huge trade show, an outstanding education program, many special events and a chance to visit with growers, farm marketers and industry associates from the Great Lakes region and beyond. Nearly 4,000 people from 41 states and 10 Canadian provinces attended in 2009.
For the second consecutive year, the Michigan Greenhouse Growers EXPO is being held concurrently with the Great Lakes EXPO, adding greenhouse education sessions to the program and greenhouse product vendors in the trade show.
One registration fee covers both conferences. The trade show covers more than four acres with 400 exhibitors displaying a wide array of products and services for growers and farm marketers – offering a great place to make plans for the coming season and learn about new products and technology.
Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) educators have planned more than 60 education sessions and workshops over three days, covering a host of topics. Many of the sessions offer re-certification points for Private and Certified Pesticide Applicators and continuing education units for Certified Crop Advisors.
In addition to sessions on specific crops, there are a number of sessions on topics of general interest, such as auditing for food safety, growing crops under high and low tunnels, using sprayer technology and marketing crops from farms to local schools.
There's even a session this year on hops production and processing, a potential new crop for growers. Sessions for organic growers and growers considering a transition to organic production will also be offered.
For farm marketers, sessions will provide information on customer service, agri-tourism ideas and business management practices. There will also be a number of "show and tell" presentations by successful farm marketers and a discussion session for all farm marketers to exchange ideas that have "flown or flopped." On the last day of the EXPO, four workshops are planned for farm marketers who market bakery products, turning staff into salespeople, raising animals for food and fiber and building customer service. Many farm marketers will also be interested in sessions on sweet cider and hard cider production and marketing.
The education program for greenhouse growers will cover a variety of topics, including soil media and pH, sanitation, insect and disease control, best performing plants in 2010 and plant suggestions for 2011, and social networking and retail pricing. On the last day of the EXPO, a workshop on greenhouse designs and retrofits is being offered (this workshop requires an additional registration fee).
In addition to Michigan State University research and Extension specialists, the EXPO will host speakers from many other states including California, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania. There will also be presentations by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers, growers, farm marketers and industry representatives.
The EXPO will feature bus tours for both farm marketers and greenhouse growers. On Monday, Dec. 6 (the day before the EXPO opens), farm marketers will have an opportunity to travel to six of western Michigan's top farm market and agri-tourism locations.
On a greenhouse bus tour, participants will visit four of western Michigan's leading greenhouse firms. On this tour, growers will see energy-efficient, mechanized operations that grow high-quality plants for the market place.
Registration fees for the EXPO are lower for those who register by Nov. 12. Program and registration information for the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO is available on the EXPO's website (GLEXPO.com).
The Michigan State Horticultural Society and the Michigan Vegetable Council in cooperation with MSU Extension co-sponsor the EXPO.