Aug 11, 2016
Kevin Folta to keynote Great Lakes EXPO farm marketing program

Kevin Folta will make the keynote presentation for the farm marketing program at the 2016 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO. This year’s EXPO will be held Dec. 6-8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Folta is a professor and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, Gainesville. He earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1998. Folta’s research includes study of the functional genomics of small fruit crops and the genetic basis of flavors. While some of his research is highly technical, Folta is also a sought-after speaker for presenting facts in layman’s terms on GMOs and other “hot button” food subjects. His presentation on Tuesday, Dec. 6, will be an interactive discussion with farm marketers about “How to Handle Difficult Conversations with Your Customers,” a discussion about GMOs, hormone-free and organic/non-organic.

Following his presentation in the opening farm marketing session, Folta will present the conference keynote address from 11:15 a.m. to noon. He will discuss “The Future of Genetic Improvement in Horticultural Crops.”

MSU Extension educators Ron Goldy and Bob Tritten are again heading up planning for the farm marketing program.

“The number of farm market owners and employees attending the EXPO has grown significantly,” Goldy said. “Last year, 510 farm marketers from 34 states and two Canadian provinces attended the EXPO. Our challenge is to continue offering a program that is interesting and informative to this large group of farm marketers.”

A pre-conference bus tour of regional farm market operations will be part of the farm marketing program. The bus tour will be held Monday, Dec. 5, the day before the EXPO opens. It provides a great opportunity to learn best practices from successful farm markets, as well as to network with other farm marketers. Last year, 137 participants boarded three buses for the full-day tour. Different markets and areas of Michigan are visited each year. For information on this year’s tour, visit www.bustour.greatamericanmediaservices.com.

Morning and afternoon farm market sessions will be offered on Tuesday and Wednesday at the 2016 EXPO. These sessions will include “Displaying your Heritage on your Farm,” by Matthew Schuld. A roundtable session to share successful marketing ideas will be held on Tuesday after the trade show closes. Folta will be a part of the roundtable session. On Thursday, several in-depth workshops, including a bakery session, are being planned for farm marketers.

The Michigan Greenhouse Growers EXPO will again be held in conjunction with the Great Lakes EXPO. For farm marketers who operate greenhouses, this will offer another educational opportunity. Greenhouse education sessions will be open to all attendees. There will also be greenhouse product exhibitors in the trade show. Another feature of this year’s EXPO will be the annual conferences of the North American Strawberry Growers Association and the North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association. Both organizations will offer full-day pre-EXPO education programs on Monday, Dec. 5. Morning and afternoon strawberry and bramble sessions will be offered when the EXPO opens on Dec. 6.

Farm marketers will also be interested in the crop information provided in more than 25 fruit and vegetable education sessions planned for Tuesday and Wednesday. This includes the fruit variety showcase on Tuesday, which will display and discuss unique apple and other fruit varieties that have been successful at farm markets and u-pick operations. In addition, a number of general interest topics will be covered in other sessions, including food safety, labor, hoop houses and low tunnels, chestnut production, soil health, biological control of insects and diseases and pollinators and pollination.

Other educational opportunities for farm marketers include a sweet cider session on Wednesday and a hard cider session on Thursday. Thursday’s schedule includes a full day of programming for organic fruit and vegetable growers and sessions for those interested in farmers’ markets.

More information on the farm marketing program will be available at GLEXPO.com. You can also get news about the EXPO at Facebook.com/GLExpo and Twitter.com/GLEXPO. Registration information will be posted on the EXPO website in September.





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