The latest organizers for the annual Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference may need to rethink their event´s traditional title.
Planned for Jan. 11-12 at the St. Joseph, Mo., Ramada Inn, the 2008 conference is supplementing the usual vegetables updates with whole tracks of sessions devoted to small fruits, cut flowers and the switch to organic farming. A fourth track will help farm pesticide users to renew their certification without having to take their state´s test again. And, a trade show will round out the offerings.
"We´ve also added a new mini school for Jan. 10, the day before the conference. It will address the ins and outs of using the community-supported agriculture or CSA approach to selling fresh produce," said Ted Carey, Kansas State University horticulturist and the 2008 conference coordinator.
In addition, Jan. 10 will offer a concurrent pre-conference workshop on "high tunnels," the unheated greenhouses that can extend market farmers´ production season by months.
The conference itself will start at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 11 and adjourn at 3 p.m. Jan. 12.
The program will offer just three day-long sequences of topic-related sessions - organic farming, cut flowers, and marketing and finance. But, the conference´s array of other 30- to 60-minute "your-choice" sessions will include shorter tracks on such subjects as sweet corn, pumpkins and melons, tomatoes, pesticide safety, pest management, farmers markets, food safety, specialty crops, flowers, and berry crops.
"We try to include the latest in research and hot topics," Carey said. "As often as possible, we also feature speakers who are successful growers with years of experience and sometimes hard-won insights. They´re always a favorite of both experienced and novice growers."
The conference sponsors include the Kansas and Missouri Vegetable Growers associations. They also include the Cooperative Extension Service of five state land-grant universities: Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri-Columbia, Nebraska and South Dakota.
A full conference schedule and a printable registration form are available on the Web at http://www.hfrr.ksu.edu/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=513.
The conference registration fee is $35 per day until Jan. 4 and $40 per day for those registering after that. The fee will cover all materials, refreshment breaks and noontime meals.
Registration is $50 for the Jan. 10 high-tunnel workshop and $60 for the CSA mini school.