SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The 2013 Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference will be held Jan. 9-11 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. 

The conference, which features more than 100 speakers and 50 trade show exhibitors, will again host four concurrent pre-conference workshops, general sessions and breakout sessions aimed at helping Illinois specialty growers cultivate their operations. 

On Jan. 9, participants may attend one of four pre-conference workshops, including cover crops, high tunnels, basics of orchard establishment/tree fruit production and sweet corn. 

The conference opens Jan. 10 with a general session highlighting the Illinois specialty crops industry and its partners and addressing a range of issues, including produce recalls, severe weather, herbicide drift, food safety, new pests and more. 

Breakout sessions on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11 will focus on agritourism, fruits, vegetables, herbs, organic foods and emerging issues and opportunities. 

Following Thursday’s breakout sessions, the annual banquet will include a keynote speech, titled “A Family and a Farm,” by Holly Spangler, farm wife and associate editor at Prairie Farmer Magazine. 

The 24th annual Apple Cider Contest and 11th annual Hard Cider Contest will again be held in conjunction with the conference, with winners being announced during Thursday evening’s festivities. 

To receive registration materials or to obtain exhibitor information, contact Diane Handley at (309) 557-2107 or dhandley@ilfb.org. 

A detailed conference agenda and cider contest details can be viewed at www.specialtygrowers.org. 

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at a rate of $89 per night. Persons planning to attend the conference should call the hotel directly at (217) 529-7777 and ask for the Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference room block to make reservations at the conference rate.