GRAND FORKS, N.D. - When you're organizing the last big general winter farm show in the region, you can be challenged to offer sessions that are both timely and relevant. After all, other farm shows earlier in the winter had first dibs on important agricultural topics and issues.

But the International Crop Expo has done "a pretty good job, we think, of offering information that's on the cutting edge," said Lionel Olson, one of the organizers.

The annual event returns Feb. 19-20 at 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. 19 and 4 p.m. Feb. 20. Admission and parking are free.

The Crop Expo offers specialized information on small grains, potatoes and soybeans/dry beans, as well as topics on general agricultural interest.

The latter comes in the keynote address at 1 p.m., Feb 19. David Kohl, professor emeritus of agricultural economics at Virginia Tech, will examine big-picture ag issues, including managerial traits that farmers need to succeed.

"We think this will be timely in view of what's going on in agriculture today," Olson said.

The other keynote presentation, at 1 p.m. Feb. 20, comes from Molly Yeh, a cook, award-winning cookbook author and the star of a cooking TV show. She lives on a Minnesota farm with her husband, a farmer.

Yeh's presentation will be "a little lighter than what we normally have," a conscious attempt by organizers to keep the Crop Expo from focusing too heavily on the many challenges facing ag, Olson said.

He said cutting-edge information includes a session on North Dakota soybean fertility revisions, by Dave Franzen, North Dakota State University extension soil specialist and an update on soybean management practices by Hans Kandell, NDSU agronomist.

"We really think there are a number of sessions that will be useful," Olson said

One of the annual highlights of the Crop Expo: presentations by top potato industry officials, this year on the morning of Feb. 19.

Mark Klompien, CEO of United Potato Growers, speaks on the potato outlook from 10-10:30 a.m.

Kam Quarles, executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council, provides a Washington, D.C., update from 10:45-11:15 a.m.

Kendra Keenan, global marketing market/food service for Potatoes USA, offers insight on the potato market and programs from 11:15-11:45 a.m.

The Crop Expo was created 19 years ago by the combination of events hosted individually by small grains, potato and soybean groups after the Alerus Center opened.

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: www.cropexpo.com.