Southern produce growers should get ready to pack their bags. The second annual Deep South Fruit and Vegetable Grower's Conference and Trade Show will be held Dec. 3-5 in Mobile, Ala., and Delta Farm Press and Southeast Farm Press are sponsors of the 2003 conference.

Last year's meeting in Biloxi, Miss., marked the first time hundreds of farmers from Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas joined together for a regional fruit and vegetable meeting. Alabama is hosting this year's conference at the Adams Mark Hotel in Mobile.

Along with extensive programs covering fruit crops, blueberries, vegetables, citrus, organic fruit and vegetable production, specialty fruits and vegetables, labor, and marketing, there will be a session on peach production and a pre-conference workshop and tour on Wednesday, Dec. 3, on budding and grafting.

Following registration and a general session on Wednesday, Dec. 3, concurrent sessions on Thursday will cover blueberry production, peach production, vegetable production, organic production and citrus production. Most of the sessions will begin at 9 a.m. and adjourn at 5 p.m.

Of particular interest to Southeastern and Delta producers will be the Vegetable Production session, featuring the following topics: methyl bromide alternatives and application techniques; diseases of vegetable crops; healthy soil microbiology; Sanda for controlling purple and yellow nutsedge in selected vegetable crops; fertigation of vegetable crops — the dos and don'ts; new variety preview; seedless watermelons — more popular than ever: what to grow and how to grow them: planting date, irrigation and cultivar affect on the yields of lima beans; monitoring water movement in mulched beds with dye; cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower production; greens production; and special marketing efforts for vegetables.

A new grower's session will feature a how-to session for those interested in getting into the vegetable business, and a first-hand account of being new to the business from a Mississippi tomato producer.

In addition to fruit and vegetable production sessions, several tours and special events are being offered as part of this year's Deep South Fruit and Vegetable Grower's Conference and Trade Show.

A tour of Bellingrath Gardens and Christmas lights will be held Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 6 to 10:30 p.m. The bus tour will feature a tour of the Bellingrath mansion and gardens, built by Walter Bellingrath and his Coca-Cola millions. The group will tour the gardens, featuring millions of holiday lights draping the flora-lined paths and seasonal displays. Also featured is one of the largest private collections of rare Boehm porcelains in the world. Cost is $20 per person for adults and $17.50 for each child under 12 years old.

A day trip on Thursday, Dec. 4, will tour the historic city of Mobile, Ala. The group will visit Mobile's downtown historic district with its diverse natural beauty, architecture and history. Stops also include the Richards DAR House, which is one of Mobile's premiere museum homes where tea will be served. Lunch will be served at either the Bienville Club or the Spot of Tea. Following lunch, the group will end up at the Museum of the City of Mobile.

The cost is $42 per person, which includes transportation, all admissions, lunch, and guided tour.

Another all-day trip on Dec. 4 will allow family members to “shop till you drop” at the Riviera Centre Mall. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $25 per person, which includes roundtrip transportation and a guide.

An after-the-conference trip on Thursday, Dec. 4, to the Mississippi Coast will feature a visit to a casino. Cost for the trip, which includes transportation and a casino package is $20 per person.

In conjunction with this year's conference, the Adams Mark Hotel is offering a special conference rate of $57 per night (plus tax and occupancy fee) for single occupancy and $67 for double occupancy. This is less than half of the hotel's normal room rate. To receive this special rate, you must make reservations no later than three weeks before the start of the conference. When making your reservation, indicate that you are with the Deep South Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference. To make your reservations, call 866-749-6069 or 251-438-4000.

If you are interested in exhibiting at the conference, contact Guy Feltenstein at 601-483-3451.


For more information about the conference, call Joe Kemble at 334-844-3050 or visit the Web site: http://www2.netdoor.com/~mfvga.

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com