Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Great Plains Vegetable Conference 2010 – What a Success!!

Last Friday and Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Great Plains Vegetable Conference in St. Joseph, MO. And man was there a crowd there! Despite the piled up snow, the colder than you know what temperatures, farmers turned out in droves to find out the latest information on growing, harvesting, handling, and marketing vegetables and fruits. Over 300 people attended the conference on Saturday alone – which was highlighted by keynote speaker, Kamyar Enshayan of the University of Northern Iowa. Kamyar reported on his wonderful success with helping local institutions – including restaurants, schools, hospitals and nursing homes – buy from local farmers with the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” Campaign, a joint project of the Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership and his university. One restaurant, Rudy’s Tacos, buys almost 90% of its food from local farmers and businesses, keeping all that money right in the local area. In the last year, $2.5 million was spent on local foods by institutions in an 8 county area. That’s great news and great inspiration!

In another presentation, Lisa Bralts from the Market at the Square in Urbana, IL, explained how to effectively use social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr!) to promote farmers’ markets. Ironically she was snowed in and couldn’t get to the airport so we used webinar technology (Adobe Connect) to connect Lisa from Urbana with the audience in St. Joe. My wow moment? Lisa explained how she used Twitter to inform customers about specials at the market and keep them updated. Okay – it’s Urbana! Then an audience member from Clay Center KS told how his local market (and we are talking a pretty rural place) has used Twitter to remind folks to come to market. It can happen anywhere! It’s here to stay! I heard Eileen Nichols from the Webb City Farmers’ Market talk about easy ways to do farmer inspections for markets, and University of Missouri Extension’s Tim Baker talk about vegetable diseases. (Stay on top of that first-time farmers!)

Several other presentations caught my eye, but I didn’t get to attend them. One was titled “The GAPS Certification and Audit Process” by USDA-AMS Good Agriculture Practices guru David Markwardt. Another was “Farm to College Dining Panel” that discussed how farmers could connect with local colleges and universities to sell produce. For a complete listing of sessions at the conference, click here. You can view 2009’s conference sessions and copies of presentations here. Posted by Mary Hendrickson

1 comment:

  1. Debi, I stumbled into your blog and found what you did so interesting I lingered. My grandfather was a cattle farmer in South Louisiana. His garden was not only a personal pride but his 'meditation'. Everytime I see fresh strawberries, I taste his, yum! And the fresh mustard greens. I know this sounds strange but we kids looked forward to those greens more than ice cream! (Only one first, tender pick and gone for another year.) Anyway, (I digress), thank you for an informative update. And good luck with all you do.