GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The Upper Midwest has suffered through a long, tough winter. But the upcoming 2019 International Crop Expo - regarded by some as the unofficial end of the area's general-farm-show winter season - is a reminder that spring is coming.

The annual event returns Feb. 20-21 to the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Roughly 4,000 people and 170 exhibitors are expected to attend. It begins at 9 a.m. both days and ends at 5 p.m Feb. 20 and 4 p.m. Feb. 21. Admission and parking are free.

"We think it will be a pretty useful show. We have knowledgeable speakers with a lot of good information," said Lionel Olson, farm operations manager for the Northwest Research and Outreach Center at the University of Minnesota-crookston. He has helped to manage the Crop Expo for many years.

Times are tough economically for ag in general, and the show will address that in two ways, Olson said.

The first is through the keynote presentation at 1 p.m. Feb. 20 by Jolene Brown on the value of humor in farming, especially in tough times. Brown is a talented, versatile speaker, whose presentation will be well received, Olson said.

The Crop Expo also will tackle tough financial times with a session on "Finding Dollars in the Detail" from 1-2:15 p.m. Feb. 21. It will focus on management decisions that can help farmers increase their net income in current economic conditions.

The Crop Expo - created 18 years again by the combination of events hosted individually by small grains, potato and soybean groups after the Alerus Center opened - will again host educational sessions geared specifically to spuds, small grains and soybeans/dry beans.

As in the past, the potato sessions will feature several national industry leaders. On Feb. 20, Mark Klompien, CEO of United Potato Growers, will speak from 9-9:30 a.m., with Blair Richardson, president and CEO of Potatoes USA, speaking from 9:30-9:45 a.m. and John Keeling, executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council, giving his presentation from 10:30-10:55 a.m.

But many sessions are of general interest and beneficial to anyone involved in ag, Olson said.

For instance, North Dakota State University extension will lead a session on Palmer armanath, a dangerous weed, from 11-11:30 a.m. Feb. 21.

"Palmer amaranth has been confirmed now in North Dakota, so it's good to learn as much as we can about it," Olson said.

New this year is a session, to be held in the south end of the exhibit arena, on UAV technology in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and western North Dakota.

"This is different for us, holding a session in the arena. We're looking forward to it," Olson said.

Most attendees come from within 100 miles of Grand Forks in the northeast part of the state. That area includes Canada, which helps to explain the event's full name.

More information: