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Trend Toward Diversification for Wisconsin Fruit, Vegetable Growers

Diversification of crops will be a big topic at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference later this month. (UW Extension)
Diversification of crops will be a big topic at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference later this month. (UW Extension)
January 6, 2016

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. - When more than 800 growers of fresh produce gather for their annual conference later this month in Wisconsin Dells, a big topic for workshops and discussions will be diversification of crops. So says Anna Maenner, who coordinates the conference, which gets under way Jan. 24 at the Kalahari Resort.

Nowadays, Maenner said, consumers care a lot more about their food than just where it's coming from - "how they're producing my food, and how that food is handled after it actually gets harvested.

"I want to know that the purchases that I'm making are supporting someone local," she said, "because that money gets turned around in the local economy, then."

Maenner said the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference will feature more than 80 educational sessions, a trade show and, most importantly, a chance for fresh-food producers to network and learn from each other.

According to Maenner, it used to be that a producer would specialize in one crop, such as apples or potatoes. But now, she said, producers are eager to learn more about how to diversify their production.

"Well, you know, I grew strawberries, and maybe now they're growing strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to stretch out their season," she said, "or now they've put in some apples and maybe now they've put in a kitchen so that they can take their crop, they can harvest it themselves, they can process that crop and make it into a value-added product."

Maenner said an event such as the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference provides an opportunity for producers to learn how others diversified their production, and the problems they've faced and the opportunities diversification has presented.

"And that's why having an event like this where growers that are growing different crops can come together and try to figure out for their particular situation what other crop might complement their main crop," she said.

Registration information for the event is available at wisconsinfreshproduce.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI