Over the course of my career, I have organized and developed many educational sessions for various winter meetings. When I was employed at North Carolina State University, Kansas State University and eventually Penn State, I developed workshops and seminars for organizations such as the American Society for Horticultural Science or the American Society for Plasticulture both within and outside the U.S. I have also spoken at numerous winter vegetable meetings all over the country and I always enjoyed interacting and engaging with growers, always learning from them. I am a firm believer that winter commodity meetings and trade shows should be viewed as opportunities for growers to learn about new research and advances in technology, be updated on the latest pest control strategies and the performance of new varieties, see innovative marketing strategies and socialize with fellow growers. From time to time you can go to a winter meeting or trade show at a location outside your home base – even a fun location in a warmer climate.

What makes a good winter meeting and trade show? You have to offer a top notch and diverse educational program addressing the latest issues impacting the vegetable community with outstanding speakers from both inside and outside the region who can address the topics and attract growers to attend the meetings. If you have good grower attendance, then the trade show will flourish because the industry folks will want to be in attendance to hopefully sell to their existing clients and engage new ones. The quality of the educational sessions and the size of the trade show continually feed off each other and all the great winter commodity meetings and trade shows follow this principle and have been successful for many years. I know the large regional meetings have a waiting list of companies wanting to participate in the trade show. Also, organizers of the meetings need to allow sufficient time for the growers to visit the trade shows and that will always be greatly appreciated by the vendors.

I have spoken at a variety of meetings – some were only vegetable-oriented, some for both vegetable and fruit crops and some covered a more diverse field of topics, including nursery crops, greenhouse flower crops, landscaping and Christmas trees. One such meeting is the Illinois Specialty Crop Conference, scheduled for Jan. 5 – 7, 2022 in Springfield, IL. I believe most of the crops mentioned above may in most locations have their own stand-alone meetings. Winter meetings may also have additional activities before the meetings, such as bus tours or workshops on various topics. Some meetings are may be oriented toward a specific production philosophy, such as the MOSES Organic Farming Conference, set for Feb. 24 – 26, 2022 in LaCrosse, WI. Others may be oriented toward a single crop, such as the North American Strawberry Growers Association 2022 Meeting and Conference (Jan. 16 – 19, 2022 in Nashville, TN) or the National Watermelon Association Meeting (Feb. 23 – 27, 2022 in Nashville).

Some winter commodity meetings are state-specific, such as the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference, set for Jan. 2 – 4, 2022 in Bowling Green, KY, Country Folks Grower’s own Empire State Producers Expo, taking place Jan. 11 – 13, 2022 in Syracuse, NY, and the New Jersey Ag Convention and Trade Show, scheduled for Feb. 8 – 10, 2022 at Atlantic City, NJ.

Other winter meetings and trade shows are regionally oriented, such as the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention (Feb. 1 – 3, 2022 in Hershey, PA), the Great Plains Growers Conference (Jan. 7 – 8, 2022 in St. Joseph, MO) and the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference online only (set for Dec. 13 – 17).

Almost all meetings have a printed proceeding, recordings of the summary of meeting talks and some are even offering videos of the sessions online. This is certainly handy for reviewing the sessions after the fact.

You can see the large number, diversity and location of the winter meetings and trade shows available. In addition to these, there are more statewide meetings available and opportunities to attend regional or even individual county meetings within a state put on by local Extension personnel. There are tremendous opportunities for growers to continue their education this winter and enjoy the company of fellow growers and vendors.

You can contact me with feedback on my columns or ideas for future columns at wlamont@psu.edu.