From December 17 to 19, the biggest and best educational event for commercial fruit and vegetable growers in New England takes place in Manchester, N.H. It only happens every other year, so don't miss it. Over 1,000 farmers attend, and the biggest complaint is: "There were so many good sessions I couldn't get to them all." Be sure to preregister to avoid late fees, and take advantage of the reduced rate for registering other family members and employees from your farm at the same time. Bringing a whole crew allows you to split up and collect information on the many different topics that will be covered.
This year's conference features 31 educational sessions over the three days, covering major vegetable, berry and tree fruit crop topics, as well as a special session on spotted wing drosophila. Each morning and afternoon there are five concurrent sessions, so there is a lot to choose from. A session typically includes five separate half-hour presentations, which are given by a combination of farmers, educators, researchers and industry personnel.
These gatherings take place twice a day, one after each morning and afternoon concurrent session. These informal sessions bring speakers and farmers together for in-depth discussions that allow growers to learn from each other. Topics this year include tractor cultivation, organic fruit, hand cultivation, quality seeds, winter growing, irrigation systems, and organic insect and disease control.
Always popular at the conference is the extensive trade show, with over 100 commercial exhibitors, as well as many nonprofit exhibitors. Check out the latest in tractors, tillage and irrigation equipment, seeds and plants, fertilizers and pest controls, marketing supplies and much more. Learn about the details of these products from the people that sell them. You must register for the conference in order to attend the trade show. The trade show is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. all three days, and from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The preregistration fee to attend any part or all of the conference or trade show is $105 for the first member of the farm or business, and $75 for each additional member (family or employee) when preregistered with the first member. The preregistration fee for students (high school or college) is $45 each, but only when preregistered by the instructor.
Preregistration is strongly encouraged. There is an additional fee of $30 ($20 for students) per person for late registration or walk-ins. Online registration is available for your convenience at http://www.newenglandvfc.org. You can register individuals as well as groups of people. You will not receive a registration receipt in the mail; your registration package will be available at the registration desk when you arrive at the conference. If registering at the door, credit cards will be accepted; there is also an ATM machine available in the hotel if you need cash.
You are responsible for making your own lodging arrangements if you need them. The conference host hotel is the Radisson Manchester Downtown, but rooms there sell out very early; call 603-625-1000 or go to http://www.radisson.com/manchesternh to make a reservation. Other hotels in the area include: Hilton Garden Inn, 603-669-2222; Courtyard by Marriott, 603-641-4900; Homewood Suites by Hilton, 603-668-2200; Four Points Sheraton, 603-668-6110; Holiday Inn Express, 603-669-6800; Super 8, 603-623-0883; Comfort Inn, 603-668-2600; and EconoLodge, 603-624-0111. Additional information is available on the conference website.
Limited parking is available in the parking garage next to the Radisson hotel. There are also a limited number of two-hour and 10-hour parking meters available along city streets. Other parking options in the area are the Hampshire Plaza Parking Garage and the Victory Parking Garage. It is best to arrive early if you want to find a parking space near the conference.
Certified pesticide applicators are eligible to receive recertification credit. Pick up a form during registration, and be sure to have your certification number with you. Keep this form for the entire conference. To get credit for a session, you must attend the entire session and have your form signed by the moderator at the end. Certified Crop Advisors can receive Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for certain sessions. A sign-in/out sheet will be in the room.
For more information about the conference, including the names of individual presentations and speakers in each session, a list of trade show exhibitors, and links to the proceedings of past conferences, go to http://www.newenglandvfc.org.
The author is a vegetable and berry specialist with University of Vermont Extension
based at the Brattleboro office.