Dr. David Kohl from Virginia Tech makes a point during this Keynote presentation.
After last year’s virtual Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, both growers and exhibitors as well as the convention organizers were eagerly looking forward to this year’s return to an in-person format. While the Pennsylvania Farm Show reported an attendance drop of 40 to 50%, the Mid-Atlantic Convention attendance was about 75 to 80% of the 2020 attendance by preliminary counts. The pre-convention Farm Market Bus Tour sold out with two busloads of farm marketers – about 90 persons which is the usual number on the bus tour – visiting three markets and an equipment manufacturer.
Keynote speaker, Dr. David Kohl, discussed Roller Coaster Economics and the Management Mindset during his presentation on the opening day attended by about 400 Convention attendees. He pointed out that the economic environment is surrounded by uncertainty, but also opportunities for those with a high business IQ and financial management mindset. He reviewed macroeconomic variables ranging from global economic trends to inflation, interest rates, supply chain disruptions, and consumer trends that will impact the financial bottom line. He then reviewed time-tested business and financial practices that will place the odds of success in a grower’s favor. He gave practical tips, techniques, and tools that can be used in a grower’s business, family and personal life based upon his decades of engagement with agricultural businesses, research and even business ownership.
While the Convention Joint Committee was looking forward to the return to in-person, it was not without some adjustments and accommodations. As the number of Covid cases peaked in January, some speakers were uncomfortable due to various personal circumstances with presenting in-person and opted to make their presentations virtually to the audience in attendance at the Hershey Lodge. And at the last minute, a couple speakers were prevented from traveling by the weather. The Convention Audio-Visual team headed by Daniel Weber, Tom Butzler, Rob Pollock and Don Seifert, all with Penn State Extension, scrambled to provide the necessary Zoom links to allow over 40 virtual presentations. The six to nine concurrent sessions over the three-day convention included over 250 presentations, so most were still presented in-person by speakers from various locations. The virtual technology successfully allowed the remote speakers to show and explain their slides essentially the same as if they were present in-person. They were even able to answer questions from the audience afterward.
The Annual Fruit and Vegetable Growers Banquet on the evening of the first day featured awards from the various sponsoring groups. The second day of the Convention concluded with a reception for apple growers at 5:00 p.m. following the PVGA-sponsored Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social at 7:00 p.m. – generous bowls of vanilla ice cream with toppings of your choice and potato chips donated by Herr’s Snacks and Ira A. Middlewarth and Son.
While attendance was lighter than usual, in general the 2022 Mid-Atlantic Convention was a start toward a return to “normal” – a new “normal” that will likely continue to include some virtual presentations. Plans for the 2023 Convention will begin in March so send us your ideas and suggestions for topics and speakers.