Fresh from the Great Lakes Expo earlier this month, I want to take the time to thank the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo for providing a great conference. It’s encouraging to witness how an engaged industry comes together to discuss its best practices and most pressing concerns.

For instance, the farm marketing session, hosted by Steve Bogash of the Penn State Cooperative Extension, featured many simple and straightforward tidbits on how to clean up your farm and market appearance.

When discussing front store appearances, Bogash recommended that owners eliminate the “Closed” sign from its greeting post. He noted that potential customers will often misconstrue the sign for a permanent close of business rather than normal business hours. He also jokingly touched upon going overboard with landscaping.

“There’s no need to make a maze out of the garden in the front of your store. You want to provide a simple entrance into your store,” Bogash said. “Think about it, some urbanites will stand still in traffic for more than two hours; they won’t have the brain capacity for that.”

One of Growing’s writers, Vernon Grubinger of the University of Vermont, was also on hand to give attendees a view into Vermont’s organic vegetable and berry farms. Grubinger mentioned the innovations surrounding soil health, the expanding reach of food hubs, and the growing popularity of community-supported agriculture (CSA).

“Choice is a big thing,” he said referring to CSAs. “CSAs are very popular. It provides a diverse food selection. People want to belong and ‘be a member’ of a farmstand.”

Industry professionals should have a heavy travel load with so many conferences scheduled this season, such as the hugely popular New York Farm Show, New England Grows in Boston, and the World Ag Expo in California.

Vernon Grubinger speaking at the Great Lakes Expo in December


New England Grows and the World Ag Expo are some of the most influential shows held early in the new year. Find out what these conferences are offering in our show previews inside.

Also in this issue, Tamara Scully discusses the best practices while managing a farmers market in the winter season, and Kathleen Hatt shares what’s new in the world of cucurbits. In our cover story, Dorothy Noble reports on how the industry is planning to deal with this year’s upcoming changes to many inspections and Customs and Border Protection rules that will affect supply chain distribution channels.

Since we’re starting a fresh year, I just want to remind everyone to visit the recently updated The new interactive design allows you to easily navigate the site to find the daily articles and features that are important in the world of commercial fruit and vegetable growers.

Take some time to visit the new, and let’s stay engaged for the rest of 2015.

Michael Freeze