Like many events in 2020, the annual Hermiston Farm Fair is going virtual.
Now in its 47th year, the farm fair is a signature showcase for Oregon State University’s Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center, or HAREC, which serves nearly 500,000 acres of irrigated agriculture across the Columbia Basin in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington.
The three-day exposition and trade show typically draws hundreds of people to the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center in Hermiston.
This year, however, with statewide restrictions on large indoor gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19, researchers will instead present their latest findings during a series of webinars scheduled for Dec. 2-4.
“Our goal is to try to reach the same audience, and maybe many more,” said Silvia Rondon, extension entomologist at HAREC and one of the farm fair’s main organizers. “People are going to be able to listen to our seminars from anywhere in the world. I think that’s going to be a cool experience.”
The Hermiston Chamber of Commerce normally partners with OSU on the farm fair, helping to provide a venue and sponsorships. The chamber announced in September it would not be participating this year to focus on serving its member businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
That left HAREC to organize virtual sessions largely on its own, which Rondon said has been a difficult transition.
“All of us are learning about how to move from in-person to the virtual venue,” she said. “I am confident we are going to pull it off.”
The virtual farm fair will feature talks from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each morning over the Zoom video conferencing app. Each speaker will have 30 minutes, covering a variety of topics spanning the region’s diverse irrigated crops, Rondon said.
Day 1, on Wednesday, Dec. 2, will kick off with the potato seminar providing updates on breeding, diseases, pest management and crop nutrition programs.
HAREC is regarded as the flagship potato research station for OSU, and figures prominently in the Tri-State Potato Research and Breeding Program with Washington and Idaho.
Day 2, on Thursday, Dec. 3, will cover soil health and modern precision irrigation technology. Rondon said soil health has been one of the hot research topics at HAREC over the last several years.
Day 3 on Dec. 4 will focus on hemp and other horticultural programs.
Rondon said she expects the hemp session will be well-attended, as 2020 was the first full growing season for OSU researchers to study the crop after it was decriminalized in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Pesticide applicator certification credits will also be offered online during the farm fair.
There will be a fee for the Pesticide CORE Program presentations, but all other sessions are free.
While Rondon said she will miss the face-to-face interactions and networking normally associated with the farm fair, the online event will ensure everyone can remain safe and still get them the information they need to improve their farming operations.
”I cannot tell you how much influence this has in all our clientele around the Columbia Basin, and the Pacific Northwest in general,” she said. “This is what we continue to thrive doing, providing information about all the irrigated crops we grow in the area.”
A full program schedule will be released sometime next week, Rondon said. For more information or to register, visit https://agsci.oregonstate.edu/harec/farm-fair