Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Great Plains Grower’s Conference

Ever since moving to Northwest Missouri, I have been a member of the organizing committee of the Great Plains Growers Conference. Putting together a large conference like this takes an enormous amount of planning and work, but the results are certainly worth it, as conference attendees have pointed out to us on evaluations through the years. This will be our 16th annual conference. It will be held on January 5-7, 2012.  You can still get the early registration fee until this coming Friday.

We do have a lot of help putting this together. The conference is organized by the Extension services of five states: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

The conference starts with workshops on Thursday. Attendees choose a workshop when they register. Each workshop explores a topic in-depth.

This year, we have expanded the Thursday workshops again. The high tunnel workshop returns to discuss topics such as high tunnel winter & summer production, advanced soil management in high tunnels, moveable high tunnels, and more.

Other workshops will discuss CSA marketing (Community Supported Agriculture), implementing Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs) on your farm for food safety, and a tree fruit workshop for orchardists.

New to our Thursday workshops is a session titled, “The Basics of Beekeeping in the Midwest.” I have been working or organizing this workshop, and am pretty excited about it. This session will teach the basics that you need to get started, including equipment, hive construction, where to get your bees, bee care, and more. Our workshop instructors will take you through step-by-step management of your bees, and what to expect in that first year. You will also learn of educational reference sources, and how to find local bee clubs and beekeepers that can help you get started. Our instructors will also assemble a hive during the workshop. As a bonus, one workshop participant will walk away with that hive, which will be given away as a door prize.

Friday and Saturday, there are up to five concurrent tracks to choose from. But before deciding what track you want to attend (sometimes a hard choice), we will hear from our keynote speakers, Paul and Sandy Arnold of Saratoga Springs, New York. They will relate their experiences at their very successful Pleasant Valley Farm, which should be of interest to everyone.

Break-out sessions this year include a wide range of topics, including small fruit, beginning organic, conventional vegetables, marketing & agritourism, tree fruit, integrated pest management, advanced organic, cut flowers, farmers markets, urban horticulture & community gardens, and more.

You will hear from growers and university researchers from all over the country. As usual, we will have a trade show, where you can see the latest that horticultural suppliers have to offer.

I have only missed three of these conferences through the years. I’m always amazed that it not only improves with time, but that growers continue to support it in ever increasing numbers. If you are a horticultural producer of any kind, you will find this to be well worth your time.

Registration is online.  For more information, please call the Buchanan County Extension Center at 816-279-1691.
(by Tim Baker, University of Missouri Regional Horticulture Specialist)

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