Oct 8, 2021
‘Pent-up demand’ for in-person networking fuels organic trade shows
Stephen Kloosterman

Hands will soon grip in meeting, bags will soon be filled with swag and brains will bulge with visions of farming’s future.

Trade show time will soon be here again, and participants are raring to go.

Matt Seeley
Matt Seeley

Matt Seeley, co-founder of the Organic Produce Network (OPN), took a few moments away from planning the Organic Grower Summit, aka OGS, to speak to this journalist about the event which runs December 1-2 at the Monterey Hyatt Conference Center.

Seeley and the team at OPN already have one event under their belt in 2021, having successfully held the Organic Produce Summitt this summer.

“Obviously, there was a tremendous amount of pent up demand for our industry to get back together,” Seeley said. “We’ve had enough zoom calls. We’ve lived for that face-to-face interaction, and candidly, you know, we pride ourselves on our shows, that these are rather intimate high-energy events. And that energy really is our oxygen. I say that I tell a lot of people that that’s that energy that we’re able to create with these live events. That’s our oxygen. And people just they just love it. You know that it’s been it’s it’s been fantastic. So again, we’re thrilled that we got that one off and now we are putting together the Organic Grower Summit.”

He said OGS is in really good shape with only a few more booths still available and a trade show that’s expected to sell out. Star-studded panels of top organics experts in the industry have been named for sessions on ag inputs, scaling up and the resilience of organic farming systems. Seeley is working to confirm a top-level Keynote speaker. Another important part of the event will be celebrating the career of the legendary Victor Smith of JV Smith companies.

Victor Smith
Victor Smith’s JV Smith Companies grows vegetables, especially leafy greens, in south-central Colorado; Yuma, Arizona; Salinas, California; and Baja, Mexico. Photo: JV Smith Companies

“Our grower of the year this year is going to be Vic Smith, who is one of the largest, most progressive and one of the, if not the best, organic growers around. Vic has a longstanding commitment to organics, you know, he started as a conventional grower … he got into organics. He sees the value of organics. He’s a champion of organics, and I think Vic will be the one of the first ones to tell you that him getting involved in organic has made him a better all-around grower as he uses some of the things in his toolbox.”

Participants can register for OGS through their website, www.organicgrowersummit.com/registration/, and there are discounted fees for members of California Certified Organic Farmers and Western Growers.

The event this year is presented by OPN with Western Growers, which represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico, who it says produce “nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce.”

“You know they’ve probably taken the leadership position in the produce industry as it relates to ag tech,” Seeley said of Western Growers. “They’ve really made that part of their commitment. As we go forward, not only this year, but in the future ag tech is going to be a very big component of what we see the future of organic is like so whether that has to do you know with the development of robotics, you know, things that are things that are going to help our industry use less water (and) lower our carbon footprint.”

Stephen Kloosterman is the managing editor of Organic Grower.

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