Indiana vegetables had reported farm sales of over $104 million in 2012 and 1,376 farms spanned 37,747 acres, accounting for 2.4% of the farms in Indiana. Opportunities for production of these crops in the state continue to increase as consumer demand increases for locally produced fresh produce. Traditional agronomic crop farmers are looking for alternatives to increase income; young families are looking for enterprises that can make the small family farm economically viable and non-farmers are looking for opportunities to start horticultural businesses. Current and new producers will benefit from access to research-based information on profitable and environmentally responsible production, post-harvest, and marketing practices; as well as from opportunities to network with one another and others with experience in the industry. Producers also need a reliable source of information when new diseases, insects, or other environmental factors affect their crops.
Extension Specialists and Educators organized an educational program for vegetable growers, called the Illiana Vegetable Growers Symposium. This is a one-day program where specialists and educators present timely information on vegetable crops in order to advise growers on best practices for improving yield and quality without excessive costs and labor. Growers are able to receive credits for licensing that is required for pesticide applications as well as learn from other valuable presentations. A trade show is also available to offer new services and products to the growers from Indiana and Illinois.
Vegetable farmers know more about producing and marketing their crops. There were 102 attendees. From those completing a survey, 19% were Illinois residents. 83% of respondents reported that the information they received was valuable to their practice. 49% of the respondents answered ‘yes’ they planned to make at least one change in production or marketing practice based on something they learned at the program. Presentations which generated ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ responses about intentions to change from 76% of respondents were about managing powdery mildew, mineral nutrition, modern transplant production techniques and organic pest management. The previous topics including the Food Safety Regulations Update were viewed as valuable presentations. We asked people what changes they made because of attending the Illiana Vegetable Growers’ Symposium in 2016. 80% noted they managed insects/diseases/weeds more effectively, and 69% improved the quality of life for themselves and/or their family, and 50% noted they had increased the quality of vegetables they produce. Specific change mentioned: "gotten better at what I do," "improved sweet corn & tomato production"