December 20, 2006 | By: Aimee Nielson

Horticulture in Kentucky continues to be big business. Fruit and vegetable sales are expected to reach $28 million in 2006 and increase to $30 million in 2007. Interest is also increasing in organic produce. 

Experts from all corners of the thriving horticultural field will be converging in Central Kentucky when the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture hosts a joint meeting of the Kentucky State Horticulture Society, the Kentucky Vegetable Growers Association, the Kentucky Farmers’ Market Association, and the Kentucky Grape and Wine Short Course, Jan. 8 and 9 at the Holiday Inn North in Lexington.

“Success with fruit and vegetables is most always based on a producer’s management skills, especially being able to do things on time,” said John Strang, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture horticulture specialist. “This conference is for beginners and experienced growers alike. We think we have something to share with everyone, no matter how steep their learning curve.”

Highlights of the January meeting will be sessions on farmers’ markets, commercial fruit and vegetable production, small fruit production, organic farming and gardening, the Grape and Wine Short Course, and winemaking. The topics were chosen to address the fact that a lot of produce sales in Kentucky are driven by direct markets. During the college’s annual outlook conference in early December, UK Horticulture Marketing Specialist Tim Woods said more than 1,800 farmers sold produce in community farmers’ markets and farm direct markets in 2006.

Concurrent sessions will take place throughout the two-day event covering many aspects of fruit and vegetable production, including commercial tree fruit, drip irrigation, winemaking and farmers’ markets. 

Fruit and vegetable experts from across the United States will be speaking to joint conference sessions on the first day. Special out-of-state speakers include: Greg McCollum, research plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Horticultural Research Lab in Fort Pierce, Fla.; Mosbah Kushad, food crops specialist from the University of Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences; Elizabeth Wahle, Extension specialist from the Edwardsville Extension Center, in Edwardsville,
Ill.; Jim Wills, professor and coordinator of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee; Dave Lockwood, UT Extension fruit specialist; John Wargowski, Mid American Ag and Hort Services in Columbus, Ohio; and Cynthia Brown, Outdoor and Farmers’ Market manager for the Corporation for Findlay Market in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The first day’s events will conclude with a banquet. Rufus Fugate, former Leslie County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, will speak on edible wild plants.

The Kentucky Vineyard Society will have an optional Celebration of Kentucky Wines prior to the banquet. Kentucky vineyard numbers have grown from zero in 1993 to more than 40 in 2006. Strang said Kentucky boasts nearly 600 acres of wine grapes, with more acreage reserved for production in the future. He said there is room for plenty more.

Conference registration is $20 and includes a one-year membership in the KVGA or KSHS and entry into the Grape and Wine Short Course. Banquet and luncheon tickets are only available with advanced registration by Dec. 20. The conference is jointly sponsored by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Kentucky State University and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

For more information about the conference, or to request registration materials, contact Mary Ann Kelley 270-365-7541, ext. 216. The conference program is available online at the following address,


John Strang, 859-257-5685