Annual horticulture conference grows alongside the landscape

Farmers Advance
Jason Henderson at the 2020 Indiana Hort Conference & Expo

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - The 2020 Indiana Hort Conference & Expo (IHC) recently offered attendees expert advice, networking opportunities, resources and a glimpse into the future of horticulture. More than 500 attendees and 65 exhibitors attended the conference in Indianapolis.

The annual conference, presented by the Purdue University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and Purdue Extension, featured three days of events with 14 educational tracks and up to eight concurrent sessions for attendees to choose from.

“The things we do in our horticulture department are things that people are really interested in learning right now: How to diversify their operations, expand their operations, reach new customers and feed people more sustainably and healthily,” said Jason Henderson, senior associate dean and director of Purdue Extension. “We’re positioning Purdue to be your resource.”

Conference co-chairs Kyle Daniel and Petrus Langenhoven added, “The Indiana Hort Conference & Expo is a total team effort with many Purdue Extension faculty, staff and industry professionals. One of our goals for this conference is to further strengthen the relationships with horticultural industries and Purdue Extension.”  

Aaron Patton, professor and interim head of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, encouraged attendees to engage with Purdue’s faculty and staff.

“We are trained to solve problems,” Patton said. “Whatever those challenges might be, we are sad that you are having them, but we are energized as scientists because we love to solve problems and help people.”

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch addressed the crowd at Wednesday’s joint plenary session, saying, “Here in Indiana, we understand that our future is being built today. And that is why you all are here. You, as growers, play a unique role in maintaining Indiana’s rich culinary and agricultural landscape.”

New sessions added to the conference’s traditional offerings included urban agriculture and hemp production. Exhibitors showcased opportunities in these fields and the latest advancements in digital agriculture.

“One-third of our undergraduate students are first-generation college students,” said Karen Plaut, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of the College of Agriculture. “We have a 90 percent retention rate of first-generation students, so this means we’re really bringing in people who have not been in agriculture. Hopefully, in the future, they will be sitting in the seats that you’re sitting in now, getting excited about plant science.”