The 2010 Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference Jan. 7-9 in St. Joseph, Mo., will feature growers, specialists and cutting-edge information from all five participating states: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Conference planners scheduled three day-long, in-depth workshops for Jan. 7. Like the rest of the conference, they´ll be in the Fulkerson Conference Center at Missouri Western State University.

"We´ll be repeating the ever-popular high tunnels and community-supported agriculture workshops, plus introducing a new one on `Growing Your Farm´s Profits.´ The profits and pricing workshop will be a bargain this year, because USDA´s Risk Management Agency is underwriting about half of its cost," said Ted Carey, vegetable crops specialist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.

The trade show will officially open on Thursday, as well, Carey said, with a 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. wine and snacks reception for workshop and other conference participants. More than 32 exhibitors will be there, representing seed companies, equipment and supply vendors, government agencies, and related industries.

The Friday and Saturday progams will both begin with an 8 a.m. registration. Then, except for a keynote speaker early Friday afternoon, it will have four your-choice tracks, running concurrently from beginning to the conference´s end. Friday´s sessions will start at 9:30 a.m. and Saturday´s, an hour earlier.

"This program is so good that growers will want to bring partners, so they can split up and cover more than one session at a time," Carey said. "Friday´s program is packed with all kinds of interesting speakers and topics. If they like, though, participants can really focus in on Saturday. Three of the four tracks will be sort of like one-subject workshops."

Friday´s program tracks will include (1) three small-fruit sessions, followed by two related to GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) auditing and certification; (2) four sessions on organic production and pest control; (3) two on greenhouse production, followed by two about bees; and (4) six on vegetables and integrated pest management.

Keynote speaker Kamyar Enshayan will lead Friday´s general session about his efforts since 1997 to strengthen the local food system in northeastern Iowa. He´ll also address some of the challenges he sees ahead. An agricultural engineer by training, Enshayan is director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa. Last year, he received the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award from Practical Farmers of Iowa.

The state associations of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri will meet late Friday afternoon. The evening will take conference participants to the St. Joseph Ramada Inn for a "Grower Innovation Hour of Fun." Those who enter a new idea will compete for a free conference registration in 2011.

Three of the subject tracks on Saturday will devote the day to a specialized subject: (1) advanced farmers market, (2) cut flowers and (3) beginning vegetable production.

"If they choose to stay with one track, participants will have a real opportunity to network with others who have similar interests, get new ideas, plus ask lots of questions," Carey said.

The fourth track will be a potpourri of sessions on subjects ranging from universities´ variety trial results to growers´ common mistakes in working toward organic certification.

Conference registration instructions and fee alternatives are available online at http://extension.missouri.edu/buchanan/GPVGC.shtml. Conference planners strongly encourage participants to preregister before Christmas.

The site also has further information about the workshop and conference programs. Plus, Katie Cook and Tom Fowler in the Buchanan County (Mo.) Extension Office are available to answer questions at 816- 279-1691. Ted Carey, who´s based at K-State´s Olathe Horticulture Research and Extension Center, is at tcarey@ksu.edu and either 913-856-2335 or 913-645-0007.