What’s the local scene for this year’s PAA Annual Meeting? Organizing committee co-chairs give the goods.
Many potato industry thought leaders will be converging in the centre of Canada this summer for the 103rdPotato Association of America Annual Meeting.
Researchers, agronomists, producers, graduate students, and plant breeders and pathologists represent some of the industry stakeholders who will attend the meeting July 28 to Aug. 1 in Winnipeg, Man.
Conference organizers are expecting up to 240 participants from Canada, the United States and Mexico, as well as from many far-flung corners of the world, such as South America, the Netherlands, Europe, China, India and Australia, to name a few, giving the conference an international flair, says Tracy Shinners-Carnelley, co-chair of the PAA’s Local Arrangements Committee and vice-president of Research and Quality for Peak of the Market.
“There has been an increasing interest from the international potato community to attend PAA. It speaks to the level of collaboration happening between North American researchers and other countries.”
Local Arrangements Committee co-chair Vikram Bisht, who is also a government of Manitoba plant pathologist and agronomist for potato, vegetable and small fruit crops, is thrilled to be hosting the meeting in his home province.
“I’m very excited to have the conference here and to talk with our visitors from all over the world. Hosting the meeting in Manitoba will allow the province to showcase what it has accomplished in the potato sector,” says Bisht. “Having meetings in different states and provinces provides a chance to understand the opportunities and challenges for potatoes in different regions of North America.”
For many delegates, the conference provides an excellent environment for networking, learning and socializing. Not only do attendees have access to the latest information from the entire value chain, the meeting provides unparalleled networking opportunities as well as a setting to build long-term friendships.
Many delegates have been attending the annual meeting for years, which is why for some it feels more akin to a family reunion than a scientific conference.
“It’s this small family of growers, researchers, agronomists, and other industry stakeholders. They go to these conferences so often that the people are almost like a family and they do many activities together. People will also bring their families because they want to meet the spouses of friends from other cities, states or countries,” says Bisht.
This year the Local Arrangements Committee is particularly excited about the Industry Day scheduled for Tuesday, July 30. “I’m really pleased with the complement of papers to be presented on Industry Day. They will be of interest to a broader industry in Manitoba,” says Shinners-Carnelley.
The sessions are aimed at management practices — for example, pesticide applications, irrigation, seed spacing, harvest timing, fumigation, and nutrient management — for industry stakeholders who are more practical-oriented.
Local producers, agronomists and consultants will find the Industry Day very useful, says Bisht. “The talks and discussions are very practical and down to earth,” he says.
The itinerary for that day is particularly geared toward producers in many ways, says Shinners-Carnelley. “It’s a great opportunity for growers because it’s one day, so it’s not a big time commitment and it’s a great opportunity to network. They have the chance to put faces to names and maybe have a cup of coffee together. That’s a great opportunity and it’s right here in our backyard.”
Attending Industry Day is also a good introduction to the Potato Association of America and its annual meeting. “It’s a way for people who haven’t participated at PAA events to come to the meeting, learn what’s on the program, but also it’s an opportunity to interact with that broader PAA group and become exposed to that network of North American — and beyond — research community,” she says.
The Local Arrangements Committee pulled out all the stops when assembling a social agenda both on-site and around the town.
Sports enthusiasts can kick off the social events with a round of golf at the Rossmere Golf and Country Club or head to Shaw Park to cheer on the Winnipeg Goldeyes at a baseball game. Delegates can greet old friends or make new acquaintances at the President’s Reception on the first evening.
Students can connect through the graduate student networking activity on the first day of the meeting, says Shinners-Carnelley. “It has become a tradition. It’s a great way for graduate students — for many of which it may be their first time coming to PAA — to get introduced to that group and a great way to get started for the week ahead of them,” she says.
The organizing committee put together a social activities program showcasing the best tours and sights Winnipeg has to offer for both delegates and accompanying persons. From museums and shopping, to the Assiniboine Park Zoo, there are activities to please everyone.
One of the conference highlights is an outing to the “Journey to Churchill” exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, where visitors can watch polar bears and seals swim from underwater viewing tunnels.
“The polar bear is part of Manitoba and ‘Journey to Churchill’ will be a fun night out for everyone. We’re also holding our live auction. This has become a PAA tradition where proceeds from donated items go to the PAA endowment fund,” says Shinners-Carnelley.
One evening, a shuttle service will provide transportation from the Delta Hotel to The Forks and The Exchange District where there is plenty to explore. The Forks is an historic landmark located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, where people have been meeting for 6,000 years — and home of the Forks Market. The Exchange District is a national historic site featuring North America’s largest and best-preserved collection of heritage buildings.
Conference attendees may also tour the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre, an independent, not-for-profit research facility established in 2000 serving the Canadian malting barley value chain.
Because delegates bring friends and family members, the organizing committee has put together an Accompanying Persons Program. The committee has identified the best places to tour, visit, shop or relax in Winnipeg, says Bisht.
“There’ll be transportation provided to take accompanying persons where they wish. We have planned shopping, sports, a visit to Assiniboine Zoo, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights,” he says.
To hold a conference like the PAA annual meeting takes a lot of manpower, work the locals were happy to take on.
“We’ve been very lucky to have such a committed group of people from our local potato industry. Some of those people are frequent participants at the PAA annual meetings and they wanted to be a part of this and support the first time this association has come to Manitoba,” says Shinners-Carnelley.
“We have diverse representation. There’s Manitoba Agriculture and University of Manitoba involvement, and industry involvement from Peak of the Market and Keystone Potato Producers Association, and other industry partners.
Bisht was also grateful for the advice of the PAA board of directors and organizers of earlier PAA annual meetings.
Sponsorships from potato industry stakeholders across North America provided the necessary funding. In fact, more than two dozen companies and organizations sponsored the event
For Bisht, and other delegates, the social activities, seeing long-time acquaintances and friends, and attending the banquets, are all icing on the cake at the PAA annual meeting, as nothing quite compares to the excitement of learning something new.
“When you attend these meetings, you learn what’s happening on the ground in many other areas,” he says. “There is very precise and direct information provided and because these researchers are showcasing their work, people from other disciplines learn, whether that’s agronomy, irrigation, best management practices, weeds or new diseases. There are a lot of new and improved ideas to take in,” says Bisht.
“Good attendance at the annual meetings are a testimony to the importance of PAA and how the industry stakeholders value PAA.”