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Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference to feature more than 160 speakers and exhibitors

The Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference (ISCAOC) will be held Jan. 10-12, 2018, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. The conference, which features nearly 100 speakers and 60 trade show exhibitors, will again host four concurrent preconference workshops, general sessions, and breakout sessions aimed at helping Illinois specialty growers cultivate their operations.

Wednesday, Jan. 10, participants may attend one of the pre-conference workshops, including:  High Tunnels; Social Media and Marketing; Growing and Marketing Pumpkins; and Legal and Labor Issues for Specialty Crop Growers.

A special opportunity for farmers is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 10, as The University of Illinois Extension will conduct a full Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Workshop. This workshop will satisfy the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule requirement which is mandated for all farms selling more than $500,000 in average annual produce sales. Farms must be in compliance by Jan. 26, 2018; the registration deadline for this event is Dec. 21, 2017.

Thursday, Jan. 11, the convention’s keynote speaker, Simon Huntley, Small Farm Central, will provide insight into ways farmers can focus on their consumers and promote stronger ties to your marketing efforts.

Participants also are invited to attend breakout sessions Thursday, Jan. 11 and Friday, Jan. 12 featuring:

  • Agritourism and Marketing
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Herbs
  • Organic Foods
  • Emerging Issues and Opportunities

Following Thursday’s breakout sessions, the annual banquet will include a keynote speech titled, “What Works on Our Farm,” by Marty and Will Travis, Spence Farm, Fairbury. Their farm is the oldest family farm in Livingston County and was settled in 1830. It is a working small family farm managed today by the seventh and eighth generations.

The 29th annual Apple Cider Contest and 16th annual Hard Cider Contest will again be held in conjunction with the conference, with winners being announced during Thursday evening’s banquet.

To receive registration materials or to obtain exhibitor information, please contact Charlene Blary at 309-557-2107 or[email protected]. Conference registration will be offered online. A detailed conference agenda, registration, and cider contest information can be viewed at specialtygrowers.org.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at a rate of $98 per night. Please call the hotel directly at 217-529-7777 and ask for the Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference room block to make reservations at the conference rate.