EXPO Highlights

point EXPO TRADE SHOW Already one of the largest shows for fruit and vegetable growers, greenhouse growers and farm marketers in North America! Last year, a record 456 companies and organizations exhibited products and services in the trade show. This year's show is expected to be even bigger! A new exhibit area was added last year. This year it will have added exhibits, featuring farm market vendors, other product vendors and information booths.

Trade show hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday. Be sure to plan enough time to see all the exhibits.

point EDUCATION SESSIONS start at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Over three days, the program includes sessions on fruit crops, vegetable crops, other specialty crops (chestnuts), greenhouse crop production and marketing, farm marketing ideas and operations, farmers’ markets and organic production and marketing. The farm marketing program includes a Wednesday morning sweet cider session and morning hard cider sessions on Thursday. TThere will also be sessions covering a diversity of general interest topics, including customizing your crops for specific buyers, food safety, hoop houses and tunnels, labor, MAEAP, farm to institution, irrigation, pollinators and pollination, and wildlife damage management.

Presentations will be made by researchers and Extension educators from Michigan State University, other Land Grant universities and industry, including speakers from Canada, and the Netherlands. There will also be presentations by farm marketers and several grower panels. Many of the education sessions will offer credits for Michigan and Ohio Private and Commercial Pesticide Applicators and Certified Crop Advisors.

Kevin Foltapoint KEYNOTE SESSION Dr. Kevin Folta, Chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), will make the conference keynote presentation on Tuesday morning at 11:15 a.m. He will speak on “The Future of Genetic Improvement in Horticultural Crops.” Earlier on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., Dr. Folta will keynote the opening Farm Marketing session with a presentation titled, “How to Handle Difficult Conversations with Your Customers.” This will be an interactive discussion about GMO’s, hormone-free, and organic/non-organic foods.

More information about Dr. Folta

Communicating about science is a driving force for Dr. Folta. His blog (Illumination) covers recent events at the interface between society and science, and his weekly podcast (Talking Biotech) discusses genetic improvements in agriculture and medicine. In his roles as department chair, teacher, mentor, and researcher, Dr. Folta focuses on clear, credible information. He knows how to communicate science to non-scientific audiences – and how to train scientists, farmers, physicians, and students to perform public outreach in scientific or controversial topics.

Dr. Folta was recently named by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) as the 2016 recipient of the Borlaug CAST Communication Award. This prestigious award is presented annually for outstanding achievement by a scientist, engineer, technologist, or other professional working in the agricultural, environmental, or food sectors for contributing to the advancement of science in the public policy arena. The award recognizes people who have demonstrated a passionate interest in communicating the importance of agriculture to policymakers, the news media, and the public.

In his research work, Dr. Folta examines how plants sense light signals and how different parts of the light spectrum can affect shelf life and high-value fruit and vegetable traits. His laboratory group also uses novel genomics approaches to identify genes related to flavor and disease resistance. Although much of his research is highly technical, he is adept at communicating scientific facts in layman’s terms.

With his abilities to engage diverse audiences about anything related to science, Dr. Folta is a sought-after speaker at workshops, conferences, podcasts, television shows, and radio broadcasts across the country and around the world.

point The 2017 Michigan Apple Queen will be crowned at the MICHIGAN APPLE GROWERS LUNCHEON on Tuesday. Michigan apple growers are invited to this free event.

Tuesday, December 6, 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Ambassador Ballroom, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

This annual event is being held on the first day of the EXPO again this year. This is a free luncheon program open to all Michigan apple growers. The luncheon is sponsored by the Michigan Apple Committee and a number of industry sponsors. A featured speaker will entertain and inform those attending. This year’s program also features the crowning of the 2017 Michigan Apple Queen by the reigning Michigan Apple Queen, Sara Reisinger. There will also be industry updates from the Michigan Apple Committee and USApple during the program.

point Growers of fruit and vegetables for the fresh market will have the opportunity to connect with retail, wholesale and institutional buyers at the MEET THE BUYERS RECEPTION on Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday, December 6, 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Center Concourse, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Fruit and vegetable growers will have an opportunity to connect with retail, wholesale and institutional buyers at this event to learn how to get more of their fresh produce into the value chain and onto store shelves. The event is hosted by Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) in partnership with the MSU Product Center and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, with support from a number of industry sponsors. More than 400 farmers attended this popular event last year.

Frank Gasperini point At this year’s PRAYER BREAKFAST, Frank Gasperini, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE), will share a message titled, "Bloom Where You Are Planted."

Tickets are $18 and should be purchased through pre-registration or on Tuesday at registration.

Wednesday, December 7, 7 a.m.
Pantlind Ballroom, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Frank and his wife Sandy live in Leesburg, Virginia. They are active in the oldest Presbyterian church in the U.S. still holding worship services in its original historic sanctuary. Some of our founding fathers worshipped in this church.

NCAE is a national trade association in Washington, D.C., which represents over 250 labor intensive agricultural employers from more than 35 states. Frank will also be speaking in the labor session on Wednesday morning. A native of Ohio, Frank received Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Agriculture from Ohio State University and his MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management, Chicago.

Ron Hendrick pointThe EXPO BANQUET will feature a serving of Michigan foods and wines. During the program, Ron Hendrick, who became Dean of MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in July, will share comments on his vision for the college.

Tickets are $38. Advance purchase through registration is recommended. A limited number of tickets will be available at registration until noon on Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 7, 6:30 p.m.
Ambassador Ballroom, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

The banquet will feature a serving of Michigan foods and wines. During the program, Ron Hendrick, who became Dean of MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in July, will share comments on his vision for the college. The program also features recognition of people for outstanding service to our fruit and vegetable industries. This year’s recipients of the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Scholarships and Jordan Tatter Scholarships will be recognized as well. And the winning entries in this year’s Cider Contest will be announced.

pointThe CIDER CONTEST will judge the best ciders produced by Michigan cider makers (only Michigan cider producers are eligible). Click here for some important details for the contest:

  • To enter, cider producers must submit two 1-gallon cider jugs at the Exhibitor Registration desk in the Grand Gallery concourse in DeVos Place on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on Wednesday, Dec. 7, from 9 a.m. to noon. No entries will be accepted after noon on Wednesday.

  • Cider samples must be thawed by 1 p.m. on Wednesday (this is the responsibility of each cider producer, not the contest coordinator).

  • Cider contest judging will be on Wednesday afternoon. Judging will be held in one of the upper level Grand Gallery meeting rooms and will be open for viewing starting at 1:30 p.m.

  • Winners will be announced at the EXPO Banquet on Wednesday evening. First place receives a plaque and a traveling trophy. Second and third places receive a plaque.

  • Samples of the winning ciders will be available to taste in the Grand Gallery of DeVos Place on Thursday morning.

  • Entry forms are available in advance by contacting Bob Tritten, MSU Extension (810-244-8555; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Forms can also be downloaded from the Great Lakes EXPO’s website: GLEXPO.com/docs/cidercontest.pdf.