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Trade show produces results

Melissa Topey • Jan 23, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Hundreds of produce farmers descended on Kalahari Resorts this week to attend the annual Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association Congress.

The three-day trade show offered produce farmers the opportunity to hear researchers and others talk about dozens of farming topics. Of the 67 presentations at this year’s show, many focused on food safety and preventing outbreaks of E. Coli and salmonella.

“The top priority is food safety,” said Bob Jones Jr., co-owner of the Chef’s Garden in Huron. “It’s a very important part of our business today. There is a social contract between farmers and people. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables should not be bad for you”

The event gave industry experts and business owners a chance to share their best practices and techniques to ensure the cleanest produce possible.

Jones has been attending the show for years.

Michael Geary, executive director of the growers association, said attendance numbers from this week’s event aren’t available yet, but typically about 800 farmers attend each year. And while the educational seminars are valuable, they aren’t the only places ideas are exchanged.

“A lot of learning happens in the hallways and sitting at tables over coffee,” Geary said. “Farmers exchange ideas. They learn from each other”

The event has to be worth it — for three days, farmers are away from their farms and families.

James Black and his family attended the conference’s final installment Wednesday. Black’s farm in Mount Victory, dubbed Black’s Shady Knoll Orchard, has been in his family for more than 100 years.

The conference is an excellent way to stay educated and up-to-date on the latest farming information, Black said.

Monday and Tuesday, guests wandered the trade show to check out farm equipment and products, whose manufacturers were on hand to talk to farmers.

Black and his family attended a discussion titled “On-Farm Agriculture Education: Growing Your Future,” where Donna Coleman, co-owner of Cherry Crest Adventure Farm in Pennsylvania, talked about using the family farm to educate the public and school students.

The concept sat well with Black, who is thinking of starting tours at his farm. Coleman said there is a little bit of money in it — or you can at least hope to break even. Black said he can live with that. “This is about educating the public about farms,” he said.

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