America's small farmers may hold the key to insuring food safety to today's consumers. Food safety concerns have increased in the wake of recent current events.

The local production of fresh salad vegetables may see considerable growth in the months ahead as concerns escalate over the vulnerability of the supply lines from other countries and large domestic producers. At the 18th Annual Hydroponic Grower's Conference Nov. 16 -17 in Orlando, Fla., this topic is expected to be a point of intense discussion.

Why local production? “People prefer to buy food products from people they know and trust,” says Dan Brentlinger, whose company is sponsoring the conference. “There is a greater feeling of security when buying food products from someone we are familiar with”

When produce is imported, the consumer has no way of knowing the conditions it was grown in or the chemicals that were applied to it. In recent years, highly publicized cases of e-coli, cyanide, and alar on imported strawberries, grapes, and apples, have caused great concern among consumers. And now, agro-terrorism threats add a new level of concern.

For people in the agricultural business, growing fresh, safe produce under controllable conditions, (such as soilless or “hydroponic” greenhouses), with known and secure water sources, could become an even greater asset to small farmers than it ever has been in the past.

The local grower has control over his product from the day the plants are seeded. Small growers package and deliver their product direct to the stores. This eliminates the “middleman” and reduces the chance that their products can be tampered with.

At the 18th Annual Hydroponic Conference, growers and prospective growers from around the United States and throughout the world will discuss the latest in technology for controlled environment growing of high value specialty crops such as herbs, fancy lettuces, vine ripened tomatoes, English cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant.

There is a full-day session for prospective growers, too — for people who are looking for an ag-related business that can give them higher profitability than conventional farming.

The conference will at the Rosen Center Plaza Hotel, 9840 International Drive, in Orlando. Further information may be found at the sponsor's web site, www.cropking.com, or by calling 800-321-5656.