How to keep turning a profit growing potatoes and onions has attracted 600 farmers to Kennewick this week for the 25th annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Vegetable Association.
The event, which began Wednesday and continues today at the Three Rivers Convention Center, helps growers, suppliers and ag scientists connect, and is a training event for water strategies, pesticides, fertilizers and diseases.
"I've talked to guys from Montana, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington," said Oscar Boyce, a representative for Zeba, a water absorbent product to help potato plants get moisture when they need it.
Boyce said the conference, which has 75 vendors and several hundred attendees, is a major annual gathering where representatives of corporate farms and independent organic growers come to learn the latest in ag technologies and see the newest vegetable varieties.
The conference schedule is loaded with seminars and presentations to help farmers earn credits toward being certified in pesticide use.
"They also get exposed to what is on the horizon with new plant varieties," he said.
The vendors are looking to connect their products and services with growers, too.
That's why David Whitwood of Caldwell, Idaho, came. He has seed stock to peddle -- sweet corn, onions, carrots and popcorn.
"A major benefit is to meet with local dealers and growers. All the people you want to talk to are here," Whitwood said.
The conference also informs farmers about old and new ag industry issues, such as changes in water use and water rights policies, land use concerns and chemical regulations.
Jim Christopherson, a representative of Champion Seed Co. in Kennewick, said the conference is a good place to get an education about ag issues in the Northwest.
Christopherson spoke Wednesday morning about onion varieties.
Other short seminars were scheduled on how nitrogen use in groundwater can affect onion production, preventing muscle and joint injuries while hand-packing onions, what emission standards might mean for tractor use, the do's and don'ts of mixing pesticides, drip irrigation, new pests in the Pacific Northwest and the future for ag workers in light of immigration reform, E-verify and amnesty versus attrition in the field.
The conference, which is open only to registrants, continues all day today.