By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The premier show for Michigan fruit and vegetable growers and farm marketers is Dec. 8-10 at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids.
The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market Expo will host nearly 80 educational sessions and workshops during its three-day run, as well as a trade show featuring more than 450 exhibitors on four indoor acres.
It will provide fresh fruit and vegetable growers, shippers, packers, processors and retailers with timely information about specific crop production.
The annual Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo will be concurrent with the Great Lakes Expo.
In addition, a number of sessions will focus on topics of general interest, such as Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verifica-tion, food safety, components of a sustainable food system, biological control, farm marketing, creating and maintaining attractive websites, soil health, hoop houses and tunnels, labor and more.
Michigan State University extension educators have planned a variety of educational sessions and workshops, with many offering restricted-use pesticide recertification credits for private and commercial applicators and continuing education units for certified crop advisors. Farmers can learn more about research findings and production of asparagus, cherries, grapes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tree fruit, chestnuts, potatoes, sweet corn, blueberries, hops and others.
New this year, Expo attendees may participate in a vegetable grafting clinic on Dec. 8-9. The clinic will feature a take-your-time, do-it-yourself approach to learning more about grafting. Experts will be on hand to answer questions.
In addition, there will be publications, posters and videos available.
All items needed to graft tomato seedlings will also be on hand. Clinic participants can try their hand at grafting with or without input from experienced grafters.
An area of interest that continues to grow at the Expo is hops, an ingredient used in craft beer-making. Speakers will offer an update on hops production and research.
Back for its second year, a craft beer tasting and food pairing reception will take place Dec. 8 from 7-8:30 p.m. at The B.O.B. in downtown Grand Rapids. Hosted by The B.O.B., MSU extension and the Michigan Brewers Guild, the event will feature a variety of beers made with Michigan hops, paired with small food plates to demonstrate the versatility of different beer styles when combining elements of the farm-to-table and farm-to-glass movements.
The cost of the reception for Expo registrants who pre-register is $30. A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase at the conference registration area on Dec. 8, for $45. Proceeds benefit extension hops research and demonstration pro-jects.
A USDA Specialty Crop Committee Listening Session on Dec. 10 offers participants an opportunity to share ideas on the specialty crop industry with members of the committee. It is charged by the USDA with the responsibility of studying and reporting on the scope and effectiveness of research, extension and economics programs affecting the specialty crop industry.
Comprised of members from across the country representing universities, grower associations and industry, the committee will be interested in hearing about all aspects, such as enhancing quality and shelf life, development of new crop protection tools, preventing foreign invasive pests and diseases, marketing strategies and food safety. Grower input will help formulate recommendations from the committee to the USDA.
Internationally known speaker Jolene Brown will speak during the banquet Dec. 9. The program will include recognition of people who have made outstanding contributions to Michigan’s fruit and vegetable industries, as well as industry scholarship recipients and the winner of this year’s cider contest. Banquet tickets are $37 – advance purchase is recommended when pre-registering for the conference.
The trade show will feature a large farm equipment display, chemical and seed company representatives, nursery professionals, insurance providers and a variety of products for retail farm marketers including specialty foods, jams and jellies, supplies, animated characters and more. A new exhibit area is being added adjacent to the meeting rooms for the farm marketing and apple sessions. The new area will feature vendors with products and services for farm marketers.
Other special events will include a Farm Market Bus Tour; a cider contest; the Midwest Pickle Assoc. Pickle and Pepper Research Committee meeting; the Michigan State Horticultural Society annual meeting; the Fruit Variety Showcase; the Meet the Buyers Reception; the Michigan Floriculture Growers Council Reception and Annual Meeting; a prayer breakfast; the Michigan Vegetable Council Annual Meeting; the Michigan Apple Growers Luncheon; the Michigan Cider Assoc. Reception; and the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance Reception.
Show hours are Dec. 8-9 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Dec. 10 from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Visit www.glexpo.com for registration, program and information. Registration is required for the Expo and may be done online or by calling 734-677-0503.