by Sanne Kure-Jensen
The 20th biennial New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference and Trade Show offered educational workshops led by experienced growers, Cooperative Extension staff and industry representatives from across North America. Speakers shared the latest innovations and advances in vegetable and fruit production and processing. Others speakers offered techniques for smart farm business planning and infrastructure upgrades.
Despite a winter weather advisory on the first day of the three-day conference, about 1,300 people attended from Dec. 12 through 14, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Manchester, NH.
Over 30 enlightening workshops covered diverse topics such as winter growing, wildlife management, nutrient management and soil building. Multi-part workshop topics focused on strawberries, blueberries, brambles, stone and tree fruit, root crops, sweet corn, wine and table grapes, apple and fruit cider, brassicas and nightshades. Speakers discussed high value specialty crops like saffron as well as winter squash and eggplant varieties for Latin American and Portuguese shoppers. Other workshops covered topics like weed control, organic production, post-harvest handling and storage.
Speakers discussed their favorite farm equipment and how they decided to update their farm infrastructure. Growers described wash/pack room renovations accommodating the newest Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules.
Growers and researchers shared results of their on-farm variety trials. Conference attendees sampled carrot, pepper and butternut squash varieties as part of a variety trial by Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Oregon State University.
Between the educational workshops, daily Farmer-to-Farmer sessions offered a chance for beginning and experienced growers, extension agents and industry representatives to gather for informal, in-depth discussions on many different topics.
The Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association held their Annual Meeting during the conference.
Evening networking receptions included a New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Association awards ceremony and highlighted the trade show.
The New England Vegetable & Berry Growers Association presented their Robert E. Young Awards to Alan Eaton, University of New Hampshire Entomologist, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Coordinator and Teacher, as well as Jude Boucher, University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Educator, Plant Pathologist and IPM Specialist. According to Chris Grant, association secretary and treasurer, this award is given to individuals in recognition of their service to the vegetable and berry growers of New England. Robert Young was one of the researchers at the Waltham Experiment Station that helped develop and commercialize the Waltham Butternut Squash. Jude Boucher was one of Alan’s graduate students. According to UConn’s Stacey Stearns, “The name Jude Boucher is synonymous with vegetable production in Connecticut.” For nearly 30 years, Jude “made a profound impact” on the growers in Connecticut.
The trade show included 120 vendors exhibiting the latest in equipment, supplies and services.
A student poster contest was added to the conference allowing student and Cooperative Extension researchers to share their experiment results with a wide grower audience.
Many conference workshops offered continuing education units for New England’s Certified Pesticide Applicators and Certified Crop Advisors.
The New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference is held at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Manchester, NH. View conference proceedings and many presentations at newenglandvfc.org.
New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference 2017
by Sanne Kure-Jensen