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Fruit Variety Showcase on December 10, 2013, during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market EXPO. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

The Fruit Variety Showcase in 2013, during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO. The annual event will be held once again in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a three-day run in early December. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Top fruit researchers and other experts will join thousands of growers for the upcoming 2018 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO to be held Dec. 4-6 at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Features of the 2018 event include dozens of sessions specific to various tree fruits, grapes, blueberries, wine and cider. These sessions feature best practices for irrigation, options for pest management, organic approaches, trade issues, weather protection alternatives, bird control strategies, consumer preferences, and a wide range of other topics directed at growers, as well as cider makers and winemakers.

Three additional tracks focus on farm marketing, greenhouse growing and vegetables. The farm-marketing sessions include agritourism and the associated safety considerations, as well as bakery and jam and jelly operations.

Greenhouse sessions include irrigation, fertilization, pest and disease control, and technologies to monitor the growing environment.

Fruit growers may also enjoy some of the vegetable sessions, such as one on controlling wildlife damage in fruit crops, or others on soil-moisture sensors, Great Lakes water policy and solar-powered drip irrigation.

In addition to these tracks, the 2018 Great Lakes EXPO will offer a number of general-interest sessions. They include topics such as:

—A rundown of the H-2A program, including how to get involved, tips for getting the most out of the program, steps to avoid violations, and thoughts about what the future holds in terms of program reforms.

—How midterm elections will shift the makeup of Congress and what that means for agricultural policy.

—New technologies such as new cultivation equipment and an anaerobic soil disinfestation technique (a pre-plant, nonchemical approach to controlling soil-borne diseases, plant-parasitic nematodes and weeds).

—Farm succession planning that offers both financial security for the older generation and opportunities for the younger generation.

—Grant opportunities through the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.

—An inside look at Detroit’s Eastern Market, a public market district that dates back more than a century and supports 20 to 30 farmers, as well as successful strategies for selling at wholesale markets.

—Expert advice for farmers struggling with shoulder pain, including ways to improve shoulder health and mobility, as well as assistive tools and devices.

Between the vast array of sessions, growers can visit the always-popular Fruit Variety Showcase for a chance to see — and taste — what’s up-and-coming in the industry.

For those who want to hear more about these varieties, they can chat with MSU apple specialists and nursery representatives who will be available during a dedicated session on the collection of showcased fruits.

In addition, the EXPO will feature a prayer breakfast and an evening banquet. As in previous years, a pre-EXPO farm market bus tour is scheduled for Monday.

The full-day tour includes stops to see how other growers get the most out of their crops, as well as on-the-bus, interactive discussions moderated by Michigan State University Extension educators.

Rounding out the excitement, attendees can explore numerous displays detailing the latest agricultural research, and also stop in at the Great Lakes EXPO’s enormous trade show, where representatives from hundreds of companies and organizations will be on hand to show off their products and services.

Visit glexpo.com for more information about the Great Lakes EXPO, including registration details. •

by Leslie Mertz