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Keynote speaker Bruce Vincent addresses the crowd at the Alberta Potato Conference and Trade Show. Photo: PGA.

Closing in on 50

A report from the 49th annual Alberta Potato Conference and Trade Show.

The 49th annual Potato Growers of Alberta Conference and Trade Show was held Nov. 17-19 in Red Deer, Alta. More than 300 growers, their families and Industry participants attended the jam-packed three days of technical speakers, meetings, trade show displays and a ladies partner’s program.

“Every year we try to add something new or tweak what we already have done, to make it enjoyable for all in attendance,” said Terence Hochstein, executive director of the PGA.

Bruce Vincent from Montana was the event’s keynote speaker, delivering a powerful speech to a standing room only crowd on Nov. 18. His message about telling your own story and painting a positive picture to the rest of the world about what farmers do touched everyone in the room. His passion about the rural way of life and how it is being undermined by public perception was incredible. As Vincent said, “If you don’t paint your own picture, someone else will paint you right off the canvas.”

The seed potato portion of the conference was held on the first day. The seed growers’ annual business meeting kicked things off, followed by presentations from the Canadian Private Potato Breeders Network and a marketing and trade officer from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada speaking about new export markets for Alberta seed growers.

On the second and third days of the conference, the PGA held its AGM business meetings, followed by a number of presentations on the role of the Canadian Horticultural Council, United Potato Growers of Canada and the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, as well as research being conducted on bee health and neonicotinoid pesticides.

There were also some informative sessions on fusarium dry rot and potato psyllids/zebra chip disease, as well as a compelling presentation by Gary Linkletter, a P.E.I. potato grower who shared his personal experience with the unfortunate food tampering incidents in the Maritimes.

Everyone in attendance also had ample opportunity over the three days to visit with the 50 trade show exhibitors who came from all over North America to be a part of the Alberta potato celebration. A separate session is set aside each year during the trade show, where there’s a “ladies only” opportunity for visitors to spend time with the vendors. This is always a hit with both the vendors and the ladies.

The celebrations continued to the closing night banquet on Nov. 19, where the Alberta Potato Industry Association (APIA) celebrated its 25th anniversary. Little did the founding individuals of the organization (many of whom were in attendance) realize that 25 years later the APIA would continue to be an important part of the potato industry in Alberta. “Thanks to the blessing and co-operation of the growers and staff of the PGA, the APIA is the only association of its kind, that we are aware of,” said Russ Stewart, APIA’s president.

Overall, the Alberta Conference and Trade Show was a tremendous success, and in true PGA fashion the PGA team is already hard at work planning next year’s big event slated for Nov. 21-23, 2016. The PGA plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary in style at the beautiful Fairmont Banff Springs in Banff National Park. Those planning on attending this gala event can register by phoning the PGA office at 403-223-2262.

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