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Dream big with expert updates for northern fruit, vegetable farmers

URBANA, Ill. – When upstate fruit and vegetable growers are looking to diversify their small farm or adopt new practices, they rely on the experts at University of Illinois Extension.

Every February, Extension educators meet with Wisconsin and Illinois commercial vegetable and fruit growers selling to share regionally focused updates on pests and diseases and practical from-the-field advice on emerging topics such as hard cider production and high tunnels.

Now, small or wholesale market producers will have virtual access to the information they need to better manage their crops for the upcoming season through the 25th annual Stateline Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference starting Feb. 12.

Conference coordinator Grant McCarty sees this program as an opportunity for experienced producers as well as beginning and future growers.

“The topics are aimed at updating established growers,” says McCarty, an Extension local food systems and small farms educator based in Freeport. “But we also see this conference as a tool for those who are considering starting a specialty crop farm or wanting to expand their operation.”

Expert presenters will cover research-based information in a live, virtual format that gives growers direct access to experts. It has also allowed for previously requested topics to be included as well as new presenters from around the state and the country.

“We’re excited, it’s an opportunity for us to bring in new speakers on trending topics,” McCarty says. “For instance, in Southern Illinois there’s a wealth of research on new pumpkin varieties and growing vegetables in high tunnels and Extension educators in those areas will be presenting for the first time this year.”

The first session of the conference, Hard Cider Production, is presented by national renowned speaker Carla Snyder, of Penn State Extension. Learn about market potential for the addition of hard cider to existing farm or orchard operations and explore the styles, production techniques, financial benefits and reasons why hard cider is a growing trend across the nation.

Other highlights include Extension Specialists Drs. Mohammad Babadoost and Kacie Athey whose Thursday sessions will focus on fruit and vegetables disease and insect updates. 

The Stateline Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference runs February 12 to 26 with afternoon Friday and Thursday sessions. The Thursday sessions are 1 to 3:30 p.m. on February 18 and 25. Friday sessions are noon to 1 p.m. February 12, February 19 and February 26 on Hard Cider Production, Pumpkin Varieties and High Tunnel Production.

For session descriptions or to register online, visit

The entire series is $20. It is $10 to watch Thursday’s sessions or $15 for Friday’s sessions. Participants will receive access to the live Zoom presentations, handouts, and YouTube recordings of the sessions. 

For more information contact Grant McCarty at or call (815) 986-4357. 

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Grant McCarty at or Sarah Farley at Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time for meeting access needs.

SOURCES: Grant McCarty, Local Foods Systems and Small Farms Educator, Illinois Extension
WRITEREmily Steele, Media Communications Coordinator, Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.