BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference will be Jan. 11-13 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield.

The conference, which features nearly 100 speakers and 60 trade show exhibitors, will again host four concurrent pre-conference workshops, general sessions and breakout sessions aimed at helping Illinois specialty growers cultivate their operations.

On Jan. 11, participants may attend one of the pre-conference workshops, including Cover Crops, Nutrient Management and Soil Health, Digital Marketing Strategies for Your Farm, Growing and Marketing Tomatoes and Peppers, and Designing and Operating Irrigation Systems for Illinois Vegetable and Fruit Crops.

A special opportunity for farmers also is scheduled for Jan. 11.

The conference will host the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Farmers Forum. This traveling annual event gives farmers, ranchers and others funded by NCR-SARE grants the chance to share information about their sustainable agriculture research, demonstration and education projects.

The projects highlighted are funded by grants from North Central Region-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a USDA-funded program that supports and promotes sustainable farming and ranching by offering competitive grants and educational opportunities.

On Jan. 12, the convention’s keynote speaker, Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau director of national legislation, will provide insight into the challenges agriculture is faced with in developing national agricultural policies under a new administration.

Participants also are invited to attend breakout sessions Jan. 12 and 13 featuring Agritourism and Marketing, Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Organic Foods and Emerging Issues and Opportunities.

Following Jan. 12’s breakout sessions, the annual banquet will include a keynote speech titled, “Why Your Story Matters,” by Chris and Audra Wyant of Finding Eminence Farm in Lexington. They have a growing number of readers following their weekly blog and will cover how sharing their story helps drive business to their farm.

The annual Apple Cider Contest and annual Hard Cider Contest will again be held in conjunction with the conference, with winners being announced during the banquet.

To receive registration materials or to obtain exhibitor information, contact Charlene Blary at 309-557-2107 or cblary@ilfb.org.

For the first time, conference registration will be offered online. A detailed conference agenda, registration and cider contest information can be viewed at www.specialtygrowers.org.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at a rate of $96 per night. 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.

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