A good first impression is critical to helping ensure a future for most any endeavor. Based off feedback from last year’s inaugural All Florida Ag Show, the unique gathering gained a foothold to establish itself as a standout, must-attend industry event. Scheduled for April 24-25 at the recently renamed Highlands Today Center in Sebring, this year’s Show, presented once again by Florida Grower and Highlands County Farm Bureau, is aiming to build off the momentum of a successful launch.
Drawing a diverse base of agriculture interests from around the state takes careful content planning comprising broad-based topics that impact the gamut of farmers. The opening day of this year’s educational sessions will be touching on hot-button issues including water management, health care reform and what it means to agriculture, tax implications, as well as immigration policy. “In reaching out to a list of trusted growers and other industry allieds for feedback on what they wanted to see in a program, these were the topics at the top of the wish list,” says Frank Giles, editor of Florida Grower and All Florida Ag Show program coordinator.
Sure to touch on some — if not all — of the aforementioned issues, a panel discussion featuring several of the state’s citrus community leaders, including Ray Royce, Highlands County Citrus Growers Association; Barbara Carlton, Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association; Ron Hamel, Gulf Citrus Growers Association; and Vic Story of the Story Cos., will kick off the program’s proceedings. “From the River, to the Ridge, and everywhere in between, hearing the perspectives of each panel member should make for some good disucssion and set the tone for the rest of the day,” Giles says.
Also to be a big hit following lunch on the first day, Kelly Sullivan and Charlie Egerton from Central Florida-based Dean Mead law firm will provide details on healthcare delivery requirements and tax implications of the new law, which is set to kick into full gear in the coming year. “This is huge,” Giles says. “It affects everybody.”
While industry gamechangers involving government rules and regulations will be vetted on the front side of the programming, the second half of the 2013 All Florida Ag Show will shine the light on emerging crops and technologies. The landscape of the agriculture-based bioproducts is rapidly changing. What was once an industry of biodiesel, ethanol, and the development of oilseed crop-based fuels has transformed into a highly sophisticated, biological and chemical-based industry of products and fuels. The overarching questions are: what needs to be grown, and what biological or chemical process is needed to convert the output? The Space Coast Energy Consortium is an industry-led nonprofit association that is identifying and creating energy opportunities for Florida’s Space Coast area. Rodger Rees, CFO of the Consortium, will present how this burgeoning trend will present new opportunities for agriculture today and in the future. “It is bigger than just biofuel,” he says. “It is a whole cluster of opportunities around what we call ‘Bio-AG.’”
Another highlight of the second day will feature an insider’s view of the potential protected agriculture has in Florida. William “Skeeter” Bethea of DiMare will discuss trends and technology of successful greenhouse and other related under cover production methods. “Given his past experience in helping out operations — both large and small — with their respective protected ag programs, Skeeter should be able to provide some great insight,” Giles says.
Catering To Exhibitionists
While the educational programming is enough to keep attendees busy, there will be plenty of time for them to scope out the event’s trade show. More than 90 booth spots (inside and outside of the facility) will be occupied by industry suppliers and used to show off their products, equipment, and services. The educational sessions will take place in a separate area just off the main tradeshow floor. “Having the trade show and educational sessions in close proximity just makes sense,” says Gerry Bogdon, publisher of Florida Grower. On one hand, attendees will have a studious environment to learn; and on the other hand, they’re a few steps away from interactive meeting place to see, do, and conduct business.”
Of course, it won’t be all business in the exhibit area. Prize giveaways from multiple suppliers throughout the Show, a complimentary cocktail reception, and more are all part of the festivities. “Between all the educational and the networking opportunities, it’s hard not to take away something from this Show,” Bogdon says.