Plains market farmers to examine changing times at 2009 conference

Changing times are part of the program agenda for the 2009, five-state Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference, scheduled for Jan. 8-10. The annual event itself will be in a new location -- St. Joseph, Mo., at the Fulkerson Conference Center of Missouri Western State University.

The event will offer workshop options for the first day. One Jan. 9 session will cover high-tunnel production and the other, the community-supported agriculture (CSA) approach to marketing.

The conference program´s 50-plus break-out session choices for Jan. 9-10 will include:

* Solar-powered irrigation,

* Biofuels for structures,

* Web-based sales,

* Biodiversity on the vegetable farm, and

* No-till using organic production.

"At least the conference name is the same. But, it´s also not quite accurate anymore," said Ted Carey, vegetable crops specialist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.

The name implies the event is just for experienced growers, Carey explained. But, parts of this year´s conference should be equally useful for people who are just thinking about getting into the business of growing and/or marketing fresh produce.

"The conference is also for both organic and conventional growers. In other words, there´s something for everyone," he said.

As its name states, the `09 program addresses the interests and concerns of vegetable growers. It also will focus on small fruits, cut flowers, greenhouses, farmers markets, ethnic markets and more.

"For example, a day-long track of farmer´s market sessions on Saturday will provide information for both new and experienced vendors. Another noteworthy track will be that of Eric and Anne Nordell, nationally recognized producers from Pennsylvania who largely conduct their successful weed management practices with horse-drawn implements," Carey said.

Working in concert with state and national grower associations, the conference´s long-time organizers are the Extension Divisions of six universities: Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, Missouri Western, Nebraska, and South Dakota State.

Experienced growers, researchers and university specialists from those states make up the majority of the program´s session leaders.

An associated trade show is always popular with conference participants, Carey said. And, the Fulkerson Conference Center will provide expanded space for vendors to display equipment, tools, seeds and other inputs.

The required pre-registration for either of the Jan. 8 workshops is $50, due by Dec. 26. The cost for Jan. 9 and 10 is $35 per day by Dec. 26 and $40 thereafter.

For the first time, participants can register on the Web, as well as by mail, he said. A full program, driving directions, and registration instructions are posted on-line at

Or, further information is available by phoning Katie Cook or Tom Fowler at 816-279-1691.

The high tunnel workshop will feature Bob Muth of Willamstown, N.J., who will discuss how he uses the unheated greenhouse structures on his farm and detail the difference they made for his CSA operation after hail storms. Mike Bollinger of the Heritage Prairie Market in Elburn, Ill., will discuss using moveable high tunnels to maximize year-round production.

Tom Ruggieri and Rebecca Graff of Fair Share Farm near Kearney, Mo., will join other experienced growers in presenting Thursday´s CSA mini-school. They will provide detailed information on all aspects of starting and running a CSA in order to market farm products directly.

"I´d recommend that participants register early, though, even if they don´t plan to attend a Day 1 workshop. We generally have long lines of people who decide to register at the door on conference Friday, and this year´s program seems likely to attract even more participants than usual," Carey said.

TAGS: Management
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