Every two years, professional greenhouse growers and garden retailers from throughout New England and New York gather at the Northeast Greenhouse Conference and Expo to learn about new developments in their field and products and equipment useful for their work. On November 7 and 8, the University of Massachusetts Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program along with other New England and New York State Universities and Growers' Associations joined New England Floriculture Inc. as sponsors of the 2012 event held at Worcester’s DCU Center. UMass Extension Specialist Tina Smith serves as the Massachusetts Extension representative on the regional committee that produces the Conference. This year’s conference included 70 educational programs and 150 trade show booths and was attended by 1,200 people from throughout the region.
Along with helping select speakers and plan the Conference program, Smith developed an educational exhibit for the Conference and coordinated a New Crops exhibit. In the New Crops exhibit, companies displayed recently introduced varieties of plants such as coleus, petunias, verbena, and New Guinea impatiens. Smith also produced an educational exhibit about a major disease problem facing Northeast greenhouse growers, the recently arrived plant disease Impatiens Downy Mildew. That exhibit included fact sheets for growers as well as a fact sheet for retailers to reproduce and distribute to their home gardening and landscape customers. Beyond the specific topics they address, the UMass Extension exhibits provided an opportunity for Extension to reach a large audience of growers about Extension’s offerings, including soil testing, pest message alerts, and newsletters.
Commenting on the impact of the regional Conference, Smith said, “The Northeast Greenhouse Conference brings worldwide expertise to our neighborhood. It is a great opportunity to hear nationally recognized speakers in an affordable way right here in Massachusetts. The Conference also provides an opportunity for growers, researchers, Extension staff, and grower retailers from throughout the region to work together. It is the only program that pulls us all together on a regular basis. The networking that happens at the Conference builds a strong education base on greenhouse crop production that helps us when we face issues that impact the whole region such as Impatiens Downy Mildew.”
While the Conference lasts only two days, its impact extends over the two years until the next conference. At the Conference, growers were able to purchase the new 2013-14 edition of the “New England Greenhouse Floriculture Guide - A Management Guide for Insects, Diseases, Weeds and Growth Regulators.” The Guide is produced by Extension staff from New England and is subsidized by the Conference. Smith and a colleague from Connecticut Cooperative Extension wrote the Insect Management section of the Guide. Funds generated by the Conference also are used to provide grants to the state growers associations, university faculty, Extension, and individual growers. In October, 75 growers from New England attended a UMass/UConn Extension-sponsored one-day conference on “Attracting and Conserving Natural Enemies in Plant Production Yards and Greenhouses.” A grant from the regional Greenhouse Conference allowed UMass and UConn to bring in out-of-state experts as speakers for this event, including an entomologist from Cornell University and a researcher from Michigan State University.