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Explore the fascinating side of an event that’s all about…strawberries?

Strawberries. Those delicious, juicy bright red gems aren’t just great toppings on a sundae or a shortcake’s partner in crime. Strawberries were the main attraction and the star of the show for a major international conference, the 8th International Strawberry Symposium, which was held at the Québec City Convention Centre on August 14 to 17, 2016. 

The event attracted over 700 experts from over 30 countries, including researchers, producers, propagators, academics and business people who wanted to gain insight into the latest developments in the worldwide strawberry industry. In addition, Québec City was the first Canadian and second North American city to play host to the event.

Yves Desjardins

Québec City’s bid for the event, which was overwhelmingly approved by scientists who attended the 2012 event in Beijing, China, was spearheaded by Yves Desjardins, who is a full professor and researcher at the Université Laval’s Centre de recherche en horticulture (CRH) and Institut des nutraceutiques et des aliments fonctionnels (INAF). As the INAF Responsible for International Relations, Mr. Desjardins has written over 40 scientific papers. He is also heavily involved in the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS). 

We spoke to Mr. Desjardins about how he organized such as major event for a small berry that truly packs a punch in the nutritional world. Studies abound on the health impact of strawberries on diabetes and heart disease.

Explore the fascinating side of an event that’s all about…strawberries?

“Every time someone eats a fruit or vegetable, it’s important to remember that there is a huge industry—and people—behind the production.” The province of Québec is Canada’s largest strawberry producer and together with Ontario, it is the third-largest producer in North America after Florida and California. What’s even more impressive is that Québec is home to over seven hundred growers that sell the fruits of their labour from early June to mid-October. 

Explore the fascinating side of an event that’s all about…strawberries?

“Québec City was a natural fit for the 2016 symposium,” explained Mr. Desjardins. “Our goal with the event was to highlight new varieties of strawberries that are bigger, resist diseases and insects more effectively, and remain fresh for longer during transportation. We wanted to present the future of strawberries for the next ten years.” 

How did Québec City win the bid? “You have to know the ins and outs of the ISHS, which brings together over 8,000 researchers that study various fruits and vegetables,” Mr. Desjardins said. A short time ago, China hosted an event dedicated to apples. Cancun played host to a symposium on papaya. Florida welcomed blueberry experts at a recent conference. 

And there were several reasons why Québec won out for strawberries. 

“It stands to reason that a host city is selected because it actually can grow the produce it’s promoting,” acknowledged Mr. Desjardins. Indeed, according to Mr. Desjardins, Québec’s thriving and forward-thinking strawberry industry, particularly with respect to innovations in molecular biology, insect resistance and storage methods, naturally appealed to delegates. 

“But the allure of Québec City as well as our stellar presentation that we prepared in conjunction with the Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club tipped the scales when it came for delegates to make a choice. It’s so easy to ‘sell’ Québec City with its European charm, accessibility and fine dining—all with a North American twist,” he said.

“But the allure of Québec City as well as our stellar presentation that we prepared in conjunction with the Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club tipped the scales when it came for delegates to make a choice. It’s so easy to ‘sell’ Québec City with its European charm, accessibility and fine dining—all with a North American twist,” he said.

Thanks to Mr. Desjardins’ organization and involvement in several high-profile international events, he was named the 2016 Ambassador of the Year for Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club at a recent event at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. He indicated he even plans on participating in workshops with budding event planners to share his experience in organizing large-scale events. 

And Mr. Desjardins shows no signs of slowing down. He is currently organizing the 8th International Conference on Polyphenols and Health in Québec City, which is expected to draw some 700 people in October 2017. “Québec City in fall is absolutely amazing and this conference promises to be another opportunity to showcase Canadian research and talent.” We’ve got to admit, Mr. Desjardins embodies the old adage ‘Let food be thy medicine!’

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