DALTON, Ohio — The counties that make up mid-central Ohio are home to some unique fruit and vegetable operations. Growers range from small-scale family gardens, to those that supply farmers’ markets and retail stores.
That’s why three years ago, a group of local growers and volunteers started the Mid-Ohio Growers Meeting, which will bring educators and growers together Jan. 8-9, at the Buckeye Event Center in Dalton.
The idea for the meeting goes back almost 10 years, when some local growers who were connected to the Mount Hope Produce Auction, got to thinking about a way to provide a meeting that would serve the local growers — especially small-scale growers, like the Amish.
There were other meetings, but they were often a couple hours away, in places like Columbus and Sandusky. This was a challenge for Amish growers.
Fred Finney, a volunteer coordinator with the Mid-Ohio meeting and a grower from Moreland, said this program is “geared more toward the small grower and the Plain grower.”
He said it’s not meant to compete with the other meetings, and in fact is a different type of meeting.
“It’s a completely different type of format, which lends itself more to the Plain people,” Finney said.
The cost of registration is $20, which covers two days of program expenses. Participants can eat onsite for an additional fee.
While the Mid-Ohio meeting is geared toward a particular audience, its outreach is surprisingly broad.
Last year, about 700 people attended, and the upcoming meeting includes nearly 40 presentations and 30 speakers — as well as a trade show that will feature 75 vendors.
Speakers include everyone from academic experts and growers, to even a few university experts who are also growers.
One of the featured speakers includes Adam Montri, a hoophouse outreach specialist with Michigan State University.
Montri is returning for his second year, and will give presentations both days, dealing with season extension and using hoophouses.
Montri said he enjoys the meeting because the growers are experienced and very interested in the discussion.
“They’ve got so much experience and they ask really great questions that are really direct,” he said.
Montri has a lot of experience himself.
High tunnel potential
Along with his university position, he and his family also operate Ten Hens Farm in Bath, Michigan, which includes 17,000 square feet of high tunnels.
He said high tunnels have a lot of potential in Ohio, especially as the trend continues toward longer growing seasons and year-long sourcing of fresh foods.
The program also includes Andy Hupp, certifications operations coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, as well as Wes Kline, of Rutgers Cooperative Extension; Rory Lewandowski of the OSU Extension in Wayne County; Dave Graf of Buehler’s Fresh Foods; David Raber of Greenfield Farms; and others.
The theme for this year is “hands-on workshops,” and includes insect and disease identification; and a workshop about vegetable plant grafting, led by Matt Kleinhenz, OSU Extension vegetable specialist.
Raymond Yoder, one of the volunteer organizers and founder of Yoder’s Produce, said the meeting gives growers the chance to “glean education that is not available locally, elsewhere.”
And, it all takes place at a setting that allows growers to learn and ask questions — not be pressured to buy something.
“The speakers are not sales people,” Yoder said. “It’s not a seminar of trying to sell product. It’s to try and educate.”
As Raymond’s son, Monroe, puts it, “It’s just down-to-earth education for the serious grower.”
Get the details
The Mid-Ohio Growers Meeting will be held Jan. 8-9 at the Buckeye Event Center in Dalton, Ohio.
To learn more, write to Mid-Ohio Growers LLC, 6464 Fredericksburg Road, Wooster, OH 44691. Or, call 330-263-0254. You can also visit them online at www.midohiogrowers.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registrations should be made before January, to get the lower pre-registration rates.
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