HERMISTON — Wednesday marks the beginning of the 46th annual Hermiston Farm Fair with over 50 vendors from across the Northwest ready to set up shop, and an assortment of agricultural seminars and classes to help local producers maximize their growing capacity.
“It’s a large-scale opportunity for growers to learn more about the new resources and technology that are available to them,” said Angie Treadwell, who works at the Oregon State University Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension center (OSU-HAREC) and is a moderator for the fair. “You don’t always get that in Eastern Oregon.”
The event, which will be held all day Wednesday and Thursday at the Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center and on Friday morning at OSU-HAREC, is organized by OSU-HAREC and the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce. It is free to the public.
This year’s fair will host 51 inside vendors and at least eight outdoor equipment displays, according to Kelly Schwirse, the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce director of marketing and communications. In a change from years past, vendors will only be selling during the first two days.
Schwirse is in her eighth year of helping coordinate the farm fair’s vendors and said they have sellers from Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Generally, she said, they are all ag-based but offer a variety of products or services. This year, there will be groups selling farm insurance and some state agencies will have booths, for example.
While there’s a core group of vendors that make the trip to Hermiston every year, Schwirse said, attendees can also expect to see some new ones around this year.
“We have new vendors every year,” she said. “When they come from quite some ways, it’s cool to see what they think of it.”
The farm fair is also supported by 15 corporate sponsors, Schwirse said.
Along with the shopping, fair-goers can attend seminars and workshops with presentations from experts on a wide range of agricultural topics and issues, which are coordinated by moderators from OSU-HAREC, such as Treadwell.
Though the fair will feature sessions on topics such as potatoes, cereal and pest management like it does every year, OSU-HAREC focuses on bringing in speakers each year to cover the most relevant topics to the region.
“They’re trying to bring new research and resources to help local producers expand their growing capacity,” Treadwell said. “It’s about what matters locally.”
This year, that includes sessions on things like hemp production and vegetables, which are on the agenda for Wednesday, along with a pollinator workshop, which will be on Thursday.
Treadwell, who is a registered dietitian, is also helping lead a session on small farms and community agriculture with a focus on expanding farm to school meals.
In May, the Oregon Legislature passed the Student Success Act to guarantee an influx of $1 billion of education funding each year, part of which will be dedicated to school meals. This, Treadwell said, provides a “tremendous opportunity” for small, local farms to connect with schools to help provide higher quality nutrition while simultaneously stimulating the local economy.
Ken Frost, a plant pathologist and another moderator, is also giving three presentations at this year’s fair. His topics include pathogens to avoid exposing your farm to, and diseases that impact hemp production.
After the farm bill was passed in 2018, and the federal ban on hemp production was removed, business is booming across the country and especially in Oregon, where local farmers are hoping to cash in on the crop’s tantalizing potential.
Frost said he has presented multiple times at just about every fair for the last five or six years. He always emphasizes the same thing when preparing his sessions.
“One of the things that we’re always concerned with is what topics are most relevant to local stakeholders — the growers and the producers,” he said. “We want to come up with topics that are relevant to that group and what problems they have going on in the region.”
With that being said, Frost added that the fair’s topics as a whole aren’t relevant to that group alone.
“It a nice program and it has many things of interest to the general community, not just those in ag,” he said.
All the regular sessions are free entry to the public and don’t require any registration, and many can also be attended for continued education credits.
In addition to the free sessions, the farm fair will also have three core program courses for those that need to maintain or apply for pesticide licenses. Two will be held on Thursday, one in English and one in Spanish, along with a third on Friday. The program costs $20 to register.
The fair will have a welcome reception starting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday for the vendors and sponsors and there is the annual Farm Fair Banquet on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Hermiston Community Center, 415 South Highway 395 in Hermiston, featuring the Corey Peterson Band. Tickets for the banquet are $40 and can be purchased from the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce.