From just a single day in 2007, the Southwest Ag Summit has grown into two packed days of educational experiences targeting agricultural professionals, industry representatives, and educators. 

This year’s event is March 9-10 at the Pivot Point Conference Center and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park in Yuma, Ariz., located in the heart of the Yuma Crossing National Historic Landmark.

The invited keynote speaker is USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack (pending) on the topic of building American agriculture through cutting-edge research while maintaining safety nets for America’s farmers and ranchers.

The summit growth is perhaps not surprising considering the venue is at the center of some of the most diverse and productive agricultural land in the world, with 600,000 acres of irrigated fields located within 120 miles of Yuma.

Agriculture in Yuma County is a $3.2 billion industry – more than a third of the total annual production for the state.

The location also puts the Southwest Ag Summit square in the middle of its target audience in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, and northern Mexico.

The summit is hosted by the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association and supported by the University of Arizona (UA) and the Yuma County Farm Bureau.

“Our aim is to showcase new and innovative ideas to all those involved in the agriculture industry in the desert Southwest,” said Bob Boelts, president, Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association. “We want to provide timely and fresh content that growers can apply directly to their immediate cultural and management issues.”

General sessions will be held in the morning followed by timely and more specific breakout forums during the course of the day.

A complete schedule of events and description of breakout sessions are available online at www.swagsummit.com.

Among summit highlights will be a hands-on session on spray application technology hosted by Robert Wolf of Kansas State University, plus a half-day workshop on organic vegetable production by Monica Ozores-Hampton of the University of Florida.

Pest control advisors can also earn 10 continuing education credits over the two days of summit sessions.

The summit also includes a hands-on field demonstration, trade show featuring a wide variety of suppliers and equipment makers, a golf tournament, and an outdoor “Harvest Dinner,” which will showcase locally grown products in the historic setting of the Quartermaster Depot. The “Harvest Dinner” will be a celebration of both local agriculture and the essential partnerships with other agricultural communities.

New for 2011, the Southwest Ag Summit is partnering with the Yuma Visitors Bureau (YVB) for marketing support. The YVB will stage its annual Yuma Lettuce Days – with a greatly expanded culinary emphasis – immediately following the Ag Summit, March 11-13.

“Collaboration has always added synergy and a certain flavor to the summit, and our partnership with YVB just adds greater vision and depth to our event,” said Kurt Nolte, director, UA Cooperative Extension, Yuma County. “The Ag Summit is just one example of the strong partnerships within the Yuma ag industry and the larger community.”