Five-state growers conference in St. Joseph Jan. 9-11

By Timothy Baker

In less than one month, it will be time for the Great Plains Growers Conference. This is an exciting conference for horticulture producers, with many new ideas presented from growers, researchers and Extension specialists. The conference is organized by Extension educators from five states: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  We hold the conference every January in St. Joseph. Our 18th annual conference will be held Jan. 9-11, 2014.
This conference is open to everyone, from backyard gardeners to commercial produce growers.  Topics cover not only vegetables, but also tree fruits, small fruits and flowers.  There are also presentations targeted toward organic growers.
The event begins with workshops on Thursday.  Attendees choose a workshop when they register.  Each workshop explores a topic in-depth. Workshops this year will include topics such as high tunnels, soils and irrigation, Farm-to-School marketing, tree fruit and advanced beekeeping.
I have been organizing the beekeeping sessions again this year. The Thursday workshop on beekeeping will bring in a speaker from Vermont, Ross Conrad.  He will be giving an in-depth session on organic beekeeping. In addition to getting started with organic beekeeping, he will discuss organic methods of dealing with problems such as Colony Collapse Disorder, and pests such as varroa mites and others.
For those new to the hobby, there will be an introductory beekeeping class offered on Saturday taught by Raymond Heldenbrand, a Daviess County beekeeper and Master Gardener. In addition, Ross Conrad will discuss overwintering bees and spring management of the hive.
The main conference occurs on Friday and Saturday. Before starting the concurrent tracks, we will hear from our keynote speaker, Steve Groff, a nationally known pioneer of conservation tillage and cover crop systems.
After the keynote, there will be five concurrent tracks to choose from. Topics include tree fruits, beginning organic production, vegetable integrated pest management, post-harvest handling and cut flowers.
On Saturday, concurrent sessions include small fruit, advanced organic, vegetable production, beginning beekeeping and agroforestry, urban horticulture and gardens, and food safety/GAPs.
There will be many exhibitors available to provide information about seeds, irrigation, horticulture equipment, chemicals, and other topics. Meals, break refreshments, and handouts will be included in the registration fee for the main conference.
The conference will be held on the campus of Missouri Western State University.  For more information about the conference and a registration form, call the Buchanan County Extension office at (816) 279-1691.  You may also register on-line and find additional information on our web site at:

Tim Baker is a Horticulture Specialist with Missouri Extension. He is located in the Gallatin office and can be reached at either 660-663-3232 or

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