About 2,200 fruit and vegetable growers and other industry persons from the mid-Atlantic region and beyond will be gathering at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the Convention, which will run from January 31st to February 2nd, 2023. The program covers nearly every aspect of fruit, vegetable, potato, berry, cut flower, and greenhouse production and marketing.
The Convention has been jointly sponsored by the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, the Maryland State Horticultural Society, and the New Jersey State Horticultural Society for the past 45 years, making the 2023 Convention the 46th meeting. The Virginia State Horticultural Society joined the Convention in 2014. Penn State Extension, University of Maryland Extension, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and Virginia Cooperative Extension all assist in organizing the educational sessions. The Convention has become one of the premier grower meetings in the Northeast.
The Annual Mid-Atlantic Apple Cider Contest will be held during the Convention. Entries from commercial orchards in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and Delaware will be accepted and judged on the Convention’s opening day. The results will be announced later that day.
On January 31, the annual Fruit and Vegetable Growers Reception and Banquet will be held. The Banquet will include awards and recognitions after a delicious buffet dinner. Tickets are required for the Banquet. On February 1, there will be a reception for apple growers at 5:00 p.m. and the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association will host its annual Ice Cream Social for all Convention attendees at 7:00 p.m.
Persons registered for the main Convention can attend all the educational sessions offered plus the trade show. Registration either online, through the mail or at the door is required to attend both the trade show and educational sessions. Registration registration/Fees and Forms are found here. Convention registration does not include any meals. Lunch can be purchased at buffets located in the lobbys. Separate fees are charged for the pre-convention workshops and the farm market bus tour offered on January 30, 2023.
The State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania held its first Annual Meeting in 1859 in Lancaster. The Association met on its own annually at various locations around the state. In 1975 they invited the State Horticultural Societies of Maryland and New Jersey to meet with them in Gettysburg. This tri-state meeting was very successful over the next couple of years so that in 1977 they began looking for larger venue that would allow a greater number of commercial exhibitors for the trade show. The Hershey Motor Inn and Convention Center (as the Hershey Lodge was then known) was identified as a possible site. To help make the move to this larger facility more feasible, the three state fruit grower groups invited the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association and the Pennsylvania Wine Grape Growers Association to join them for the 1978 meetings. The Vegetable Growers previously held their annual Pennsylvania Vegetable Conference in State College. Thus the 1978 meeting is considered the first year of the joint fruit and vegetable grower meetings. After several years, the Wine Grape Growers Association discontinued meeting with the other four groups.
By 1983 total paid attendance at the meetings had reached 956 and continued to grow in subsequent years. The trade show expanded from the entire lower level of the Hershey Convention Center to also include the Aztec Room on the first floor. Fortunately, as attendance continued to grow, the Convention Center also expanded. In 1999, the Great American Hall opened, providing the opportunity to expand the trade show from 150 booths on two levels to 189 booths in one room. The expansion also allowed for more concurrent educational sessions in the lower level of the Convention Center that was previously used for the trade show. Currently, seven to nine concurrent educational sessions are scheduled during the Convention utilizing all the available meeting room space in the facility. Continued demand for more trade show booths eventually required the Aztec Room to again be used for additional trade show space allowing a total of 228 booths.
For the first 22 years, these joint fruit and vegetable grower meetings were termed the Annual Meeting of the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania in conjunction with the Horticultural Societies of Maryland and New Jersey and the Pennsylvania Vegetable Conference. In 1999 a more concise name, the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, was adopted. About that time the Convention Joint Committee with representatives from the four organizations (four from the State Horticultural Association, four from the Vegetable Growers, one from the Maryland Horticultural Society and one from the New Jersey Horticultural Society) was established with authority to manage the Convention affairs under by-laws agreed to by all four groups. In 2014, the Virginia State Horticultural Society asked to begin meeting at the Convention on a provisional basis. For the 2017 Convention, the Virginia group became the fifth permanent sponsoring group of the Convention with a seat on the Convention Joint Committee.