We’ve been looking for new ways to reach out to audiences but sometimes the old, familiar ways work best. What’s especially helpful is when our stakeholders all come together at one location and over a few days to make it easy for us to reach them.
The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo is taking place this week, Dec. 4–6 in Grand Rapids, Mich., at the Devos Place Convention Center. Once again, our colleagues are providing expertise through educational sessions at the Expo, promoting Michigan State University Extension in the best way we can – by delivering sound, unbiased and research-based information in effective presentations and demonstrations.
Extension, AgBioResearch, ANR Technology Services, EnviroWeather, the Product Center and the Rogers Reserve provide booths to further the educational offerings. In addition, our MSU Extension colleagues staff a booth offering educational bulletins for sale in the lobby. Sales are quite successful.
Dave Smith, executive director of the Michigan Vegetable Council and one of the organizers of the event had this to say, “We think the Expo is the premier show in North America for specialty crop growers and farm marketers. More than 4,000 attend, with a third coming from outside Michigan. MSU Extension plans the education program, which this year offered 68 sessions and workshops over three days covering a wide range of production, marketing and general interest topics.”
Extension educator Mark Longstroth believes the Expo is a great way for potential growers to learn about the business.
“I get calls from people who want to start a fruit or vegetable farm. I always recommend they attend the Great Lakes Expo to get a true picture of the industry,” said Mark.
I believe MSU Extension associate director Dr. Steve Lovejoy would agree that it’s a great place for both new and experienced producers.
“The Great Lakes Expo is again a major opportunity for producers to discover new management practices, learn the results of MSU research projects and trials, and communicate with their peers about the 2012 crop,” he said.
Dr. Lovejoy has attended the event this week and gained insights from visiting with growers and industry representatives who serve specialty crop producers.
“While the frost damage to tree fruit orchards was a topic of conversation, growers are increasingly optimistic about the 2013 crop year. This week of educational opportunities and trade show provide a valuable venue to make decisions about how to move forward. Anticipation of a large crop in 2013 is in the air. Let us hope Mother Nature cooperates,” he said.
MSU Extension educators and specialists design the educational sessions with growers in mind. The sessions feature experts and practitioners from Michigan and across the nation. Sessions cover everything from specific crops to timely topics such as labor, irrigation and food safety. Farm market sessions feature a bus tour of Michigan farm markets and a roundtable discussion. Some areas include sessions on using social media to grow agricultural businesses.
The Expo gives educators and specialists an opportunity to interact with a large number of growers, sharing expertise or just creating an important connection.
Extension educators and specialists put together the sessions and line up the speakers through their strong connections with industry leaders across the country. The Expo benefits from the positive relationship between MSU Extension and the Expo Board.
“The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo is a unique partnership between MSU and the various specialty crop industries,” said senior Extension educator Amy Irish-Brown. “The Expo registration cost is offset by the trade show. It would be difficult for Extension to pull off something of this caliber without the trade show and the joint effort with the Expo Board.
“All parties involved in the Expo planning benefit – MSU, MSU Extension, the Expo Board, the exhibitors and the producers who attend,” she said.
Nearly 400 exhibitors take part in the trade show involving 4 acres of exhibit space. The variety of exhibits attracts attendees interested in diverse topics.
I’d like to acknowledge all of our colleagues who help to make the event a success but the list would be quite lengthy and it would be too easy to leave someone out. Check out this brochure to get a list of your colleagues and others who participated and to get an idea of the scope of the event: http://glexpo.com/docs/brochure2012.pdf