Illinois Specialty Crop Conference

January 6-8, 2021

Live Events

Tune in at the specified times for LIVE Zoom sessions where you can chat with others, ask questions, and engage with other participants. Note, all the sessions will be recorded and available on the conference site for viewing on your own time after the Live Session.


Wednesday January 6th


Conference Welcome


FSMA Training (Pre-Registration Required)


Exhibit Hall


Digital Business: Lessons Learned: How Farmers Utilized E-Commerce in 2020

Join this diverse set of specialty crop farmers and value-added food producers from around Illinois, briefly hear about their experience using e-commerce overall and how 2020 affected their use of online sales platforms. Ask questions and get answers from farmers just like you about lessons learned with e-commerce.


FSMA Training (Pre-Registration Required)


Digital Business: Let's Work Through It: E-Commerce Technical Assistance

If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Bring your real-world questions to the panel, and we’ll workshop them with you. From broad general questions to specific ones that might only apply to you. And, if we don’t have the answer, we’ll help you find the resources that might.


Exhibit Hall


Networking Hour

Join us for an interactive and engaging networking session. Come and see and hear from fellow industry professionals.

Thursday January 7th


Welcome Featuring Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton


FSMA Training Part II (Pre-Registration Required)


Exhibit Hall


Business Development: The New MarketMaker: Building a Better Digital Platform for Your Business, Taidghin O'Brien, Dar & Rich Knipe, MarketMaker

MarketMaker is getting a significant upgrade and facelift, and we want to show you everything that is new! With a new profile design, an easier registration process, a more user-friendly search, and a much more comprehensive data model, the new platform will help you connect your business with consumers and businesses in your local community and across the country.


Keynote Speaker: Sarah Frey

Sarah Frey, Founder of Frey Farms Frey Farms is a Certified Woman-Owned Business founded by Sarah Frey in 1992. Today, Headquartered in Keenes, Ill, Sarah, and her four older brothers operate farms and facilities in seven states. Frey Farms distributes its fruits and vegetables throughout the country through its Sarah’s Homegrown label. With a mission to end food waste in the fresh produce industry, the family makes natural food products and beverages from imperfect or “ugly fruit”. They feature a complete line of juices through Sarah’s Homegrown Tsamma Watermelon Juice.

Sarah Frey has been described by the New York Times as “the Pumpkin Queen of America”. Sarah sells more pumpkins than any other producer in the United States. Her family business, Frey Farms, plants thousands of acres of fruits and vegetables in Florida and six other states.

She is the author of The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life–and Saved an American Farm published by Random House in August of 2020. Sarah will serve as Co-Executive Producer of the upcoming ABC television production of The Growing Season based on her story.


Networking Hour

Hosted by COUNTRY Financial Join this live interactive networking session with a breakout room and individualized discussion to engage with attendees!


FSMA Training (Pre-Registration Required)


Agritourism: Shifting Your Business in a Pandemic: What's Next?, Chris Eckert, Eckert’s Country Store and Farms

Join us for a roundtable discussion with the State Agritourism Working Group to discuss what business shifts were made during COVID, lessons learned; and what is here to stay in the future. This is an open discussion session. Come ready to talk and engage with others in the industry.


Exhibit Hall


Agritourism: Building Partnerships & Cross Collaboration to Boost Sales, Jeff Hake, Funks Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains & Michelle Sirles, Rendleman Orchards

Hear how farms are building partnerships with other farm and food businesses to cross-promote products; market, and collaborate. These partnerships are growing businesses and building long-lasting relationships.
Join two farms LIVE as they talk about how they create these dynamic partnerships and grow their businesses. Engage in a roundtable discussion and live Q&A.


Of Special Interest: Identifying New Markets and Increasing Food Security, Steve Ericson, Feeding Illinois & Shantanu Pai, University of Illinois

The state’s local food and agricultural system is an underdeveloped and only partially explored resource for Illinois food banks to access - and support - in addressing food insecurity in the state. The University of Illinois, Feeding Illinois, the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, and the Illinois Farm Bureau are collaborating to collect and collate information on the locations, types, and quantities of “surplus” specialty crops in Illinois, including potential acquisition costs.

The hope is to build an infrastructure that more adequately supports a specialty crops food system and a complementary agricultural clearance program. Through a producer survey, a series of focus groups, and implementation of pilots across the state the team looks to uncover the optimal mix of incentives and program interventions to overcome the current barriers to efficient flows of fresh food produced in Illinois, to Illinois residents, with as little waste as possible. The ultimate goals are thus to improve markets, facilitate the donation of surplus, and/or foster incentivized redistribution of edible food to improve nutrition, and reduce hunger while also reducing food loss and waste.

Join us as we provide an overview of the project, answer questions about the survey, and gather feedback so our collective knowledge can inform this collaborative effort. Lastly, if you haven’t already done so, please support this initiative by completing the survey offered throughout the Conference.


Illinois Herb Association Annual Meeting

Illinois State Horticulture Society Annual Meeting

Illinois Vegetable Growers Association Annual Meeting

Friday January 8th


Conference Welcome & Award of Excellence Ceremony


Exhibit Hall


Vegetable Production: Vegetable Q&A with University of Illinois Extension, Bronwyn Aly, Kacie Athey, Mohammad Babadoost, Nathan Johanning, & Elizabeth Wahle, University of Illinois

Take this opportunity to have live interaction and Q & A with Extension Staff to ask your vegetable production and pest management questions!


Keynote Speaker: Chris and Angie Eckert, Eckert’s Country Store and Farms

The Eckert Family has been growing apples for more than 100 years in rural Illinois, near the St. Louis Metropolitan area. Proud of their farming heritage and diligent stewards of the land, the Eckert Family has cultivated and preserved their orchard business for seven generations. Hear how this seven-generation family business worked together to respond to COVID-19 and persevere.


Illinois Specialty Growers Association Annual Meeting


Networking Hour

Join us for an interactive and engaging networking session. Come and see and hear from fellow industry professionals.


Exhibit Hall



Visit our Interactive Exhibit Hall

All-American Associates, Inc.

Ameren Illinois

American Nettings & Fabric Inc.

Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois

Compeer Financial

COUNTRY® Financial

Creekstone Kettle Works, Ltd.

Farm Credit Illinois

Farmer Veteran Coalition of Illinois

Grow Marketing & Communication

Harris Moran Seed Co.

Hempstock Pharms Limited

Illinois AgrAbility Unlimited

Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom

Illinois Department of Agriculture

Illinois Farm Bureau

Illinois Farm to School Network

Illinois Farmers Market Association

Illinois Feasibility Study - Feeding Illinois

Illinois Natural History Survey

Illinois MarketMaker

Illinois Specialty Growers Association

Illinois State Treasurer’s Office

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Illinois Sustainable Ag Research & Education

Indiana Irrigation

Johnny's Selected Seeds

Kathy's Kitchen

Knowledge Navigators

MazePlay Inc.

Rockford Package Supply

Rupp Seeds

Seedway, LLC

SIU School of Agricultural Sciences


The Land Connection

The Organic & Non-GMO Report

USDA Farm Service Agency

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, you must be registered to participate in the Illinois Specialty Crop Conference. Unfortunately conference registration is closed.
The Illinois Specialty Crop Conference is for all Illinois specialty growers including fruit, vegetable, herbs, cut flowers, organic and agritourism farms. Whether you are a grower, supplier, association, or consumer we encourage you to register. TOGETHER we are the voice of specialty crop growers in Illinois.
The virtual platform runs on the cloud so you don’t need to install software to access the online conference. All you need is a standard web browser and a stable internet connection.
Exhibitors receive unique conference login access when they set up their exhibit booth. If you are an exhibitor and do not know your login, please contact Sharon Dodd at or 309-557-3363.


For direct inquiries or for more information, contact:

Raghela Scavuzzo   |   Illinois Specialty Growers Association   |   309-557-2155   |

Sharon Dodd   |   Illinois Specialty Growers Association   |   309-557-3363   |