Great Lakes farm market expo offers educational opportunities for local food producers

Michigan expo is one ofthe largest gatherings of fruit and vegetable producers in the nation.


The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo is one of the largest gatherings of fruit and vegetable producers in the United States.

According to the expo’s website, more than 4,000 people from 42 states and six provinces in Canada registered for the 2011 conference. The 2012 agenda features 71 sessions over the three-day period starting Dec. 4. Educational topics include: production techniques of fruit and vegetables, greenhouse and other season-extension tools, food safety, farm marketing ideas and issues, and organic production techniques. Registration is $70 per person if paid before Nov. 15. Click the link to view the conference brochure.

It is a great educational opportunity for fruit and vegetable growers as well as producers interested in direct marketing.  Almost every topic related to fruit and vegetable production is covered by expert presenters in the short three-day period and for a reasonable price.

I, along with Colleen Matts, a farm-to-school specialist with the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, am working with two Michigan farmers to present a session at the Expo on how farm-to-school can be a successful business venture from a farmer’s perspective. This session will cover pricing, packaging and marketing techniques as well as delivery systems. Farm-to-school programs are a key component of community food systems and can be a profitable outlet for smaller-size fruits as well as extra supplies of local vegetables.

The Expo will also feature a “Meet the Buyers” reception that will connect farmers with institutional food buyers and distribution companies. This is an excellent opportunity for farmers to sign up as vendors to promote their products as well as for buyers interested in purchasing local food to connect with a wide variety of growers. There is no cost for attendees to participate in this reception. For more information on the “Meet the Buyers” reception, contact Tom Kalchik, associate director of the MSU Product Center at 517-432-8752.

The Great Lakes expo is sponsored by the Michigan State Horticultural Society and the Michigan Vegetable Council in cooperation with Michigan State University Extension. Additional supporters include the Michigan Greenhouse Growers, Metro Detroit Flower Growers Association, and the Western Michigan Greenhouse Association. The Expo is also on Facebook.

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