2015 NEW ENGLAND VEGETABLE AND FRUIT CONFERENCE Summary of Activities and Impacts
The 2015 New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference (NEVF) and Trade Show took place December 15, 16, and 17 in Manchester NH. It was organized over two years by a committee of 41 people from 7 states representing Extension, farmers, industry and research. The program featured 31 educational sessions containing over 150 half-hour presentations on a range of vegetable and fruit production, marketing, and management topics. There were also 12 farmer-to-farmer discussion sessions on topics from winter tunnel growing to insect, weed, and disease management. A special evening presentation addressed profitability on small acreage. The trade show included 125 exhibitors in 152 booths. Of these, 101 were commercial exhibitors and 24 were non-profit exhibitors. Total attendance over 3 days was 1,623 people, including 122 speakers, 79 steering committee members and Extension personnel, 32 students, and 343 trade show personnel. There were 1,047 farmers and their employees attending. Participants came from MA (372), NH (190), ME (158), VT (98), CT (93), NY (55), RI (39), other states (10), as well as Canada (32).
Post-conference evaluations were completed by 417 people, representing a 26% response rate. Of the respondents, 80% were farmers. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said this was their first time attending the NEVFC; 17% said they have attended six or more NEVFC conferences previously; 68% attended all three days of the conference. Of the respondents: 97% rated the educational sessions either excellent or good, 93% said the trade show was excellent or good, and 90% said the farmer-to-farmer sessions were excellent or good. Ninety-four percent of respondents said information they gained by attending the conference would improve their cultural farming practices; 90% said it would improve their pest management; 90% said it would improve soil or nutrient management; 78% said it would improve their farm’s profitability; 48% said it would improve their marketing or business management. A new source of information was obtained by 88% of respondents; 80% said they would adopt a new practice as a result of attending the conference. One hundred seventy-eight growers said they implemented a practice learned about at a prior NEVFC.
Pesticide applicator recertification credits were offered for all 31 educational sessions. A total of fifty credits were offered during the conference, ranging from one credit to two and a half credits per session. There were 265 New England growers and professionals that received a total of 1,812 credits during the conference. Sixteen people also earned a total of 127 Certified Crop Advisor credits at the educational sessions. An effort was made to include local foods at the hotel lunch concession in the trade show. Some of these purchases were arranged by the steering committee local chair (apples, frozen corn, Hakuri turnips, cabbage, lettuce, radish, arugula, salad mix, yellow potatoes, herb bunches,) and others made directly by the hotel chef (cheese, cranberries, syrup, vinaigrette, squash, beef, eggs, bacon, cream.) A conference proceedings summarizing presentations was published and distributed to attendees. These, and speaker slides, are posted at http://www.newenglandvfc.org/.
Numerous positive comments were received on evaluation forms, including:
– “First time attending the conference – enjoyed it, and learned a lot. I appreciated the breadth of topics, the geographic location and price!”
– “I appreciated the variety of sizes of farms that were represented this year. Usually, it seemed much more heavily weighted toward large farms. Thanks for diversifying the workshops in this manner. Thanks for all of your incredible work to put on a tremendous conference!”
– “I LOVED the half-hour session length. Organized people get their information across efficiently and you don’t have to suffer too long under bad speakers, plus it keeps one engaged.”
– “My favorite part of the conference is just hearing from professionals and experienced farmers…closing the gaps in my knowledge and expanding my information base. The research done by university researchers and Extension is endlessly useful and helpful for us to focus on farming with better tools and understanding. I love Manchester, but if we’re too big, we’re too big! Love the style of workshops and appreciate the role of the moderators. THANK YOU!:”
– “This conference was so incredibly helpful for me as a new farmer. I have learned so much useful information as well as making contacts and connecting with print/online resources. I feel more confident I have the tools to make our small farm work. I cannot stress enough how informative and helpful this conference was for me – worth every penny. I just wish I could attend all the lectures I missed – too many good options to choose from and every speaker was wonderful!”
– “This was my first year to the NEVF Conference. I wanted to thank you for helping organize with many others, this year’s conference. It was hands-down, the best farming conference I’ve ever been to. That includes, MOSES, SSAWG, MOFA, PASA and FH CASA. What I particularly liked about NEVF Conference is it was a perfect mix of science-based professional knowledge and farmer practical know-how. I also enjoyed the Farmer to Farmer sessions. Equally important to me, was getting a copy of the proceedings in advance and a tightly moderated schedule. The proceedings gives me a reference for in-depth knowledge and the tight schedule kept the presentations to “just the facts Ma’am” allowing for a lot more material to be presented.”
Submitted by: Vern Grubinger, UVM Extension, revised 2-17-16
The session organized and moderated by UConn Extension’s Jude Boucher, who served as General Chairman of NEVF, entitled “Farm Decisions: Scaling Up or Not” was the highest rated session out of 31 on the evaluations. Great work Jude!