It has proven almost impossible to hold in-person conferences and trade shows amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference is the latest to announce its intention to transition to a virtual event in 2021.
Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association confirmed in an announcement on Monday that the event scheduled for Jan. 5-7, 2021 will be held virtually.
“The Savannah conference is a unique conference, and everybody enjoys that conference because of the networking and the opportunities to see folks and the education quality and tradeshow and industry folks there. It became quite obvious that as we worked through how we do the conference in this Corona-19 guideline, it just became an impossibility,” Hall said. “If you look at one of our classrooms where we expect to have 100 people in there, if you social distance, you can get 19 people in that room. What happens is if we work to go forward with that, you’ve got 19 people getting an education and 80 people not getting an education.
“The effectiveness and ability with the conference to function is just not possible to have it.”
A normal attendance for the conference is between 3,200 and 3,500 people. The event targets fruit and vegetable crops like watermelons, peaches, blueberries and hemp with educational sessions led by University of Georgia Extension specialists.
Over the next two weeks, the organization will provide more information on exhibiting, sponsoring and attending the virtual event in January.
One benefit of this virtual format is that educational sessions will stay online for four months.
“There’s a lot of positives to the change but the networking and atmosphere of the Savannah conference is going to be missed this year,” Hall said.