The $60 VIP ticket for the 2024 Bloomin’ Peony Tour on Saturday, May 18 will allow the purchaser to gain access to several experts in the horticulture field.

The exclusive tour will be at the Hollingsworth Peonies farm, located southeast of Burlington Jct.

The VIP ticket holder will be able to hear from four diverse perspectives of growing peonies on a specialty crop scale. The Saturday morning program begins at 7 am and is the kick-off for the two-day event, sponsored by the Maryville Rotary Club.

Tickets for the event, both VIP and general admission may be purchased at the Maryville Forum, 111 East Jenkins or Nodaway News Leader, 116 East Third. The general admission ticket for either Saturday, May 18 or Sunday, May 19 at $35. General admission will be from 10 am until 5 pm, Saturday and 8 am until 5 pm, Sunday.

Nathan Bilke, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service area soil scientist, is the first speaker Saturday morning to address the VIP ticket holders. He was born and raised in southwest Missouri on a commercial beef cattle farm. Although beef cattle was a primary focus of the family operation, there was a strong emphasis on forest and wildlife stewardship. Bilke attended Northwest Missouri State where he received a degree in geology and soils. After graduating college, his first job was a nutrient management specialist where the focus was soil testing and managing nutrient load in impaired watersheds. Next he  took a position with USDA NRCS in Northwest Missouri as a resource conservationist where his focus was soils and grazing lands management.

Recently Bilke had the opportunity to switch career directions with USDA and become the area resource soil scientist for this Northwest region where he can focus on soil investigations for environmental, engineering and wetland projects. Along with onsite soil investigations, a large percentage of his work is spent educating USDA employees and the public on our nation’s soil resource. He can explain how to implement site specific practices to conserve that resource.

Later on Saturday morning, Dr. Rod Barr, Northwest Missouri State University School of Agricultural Science director, will speak to attendees. He has served the university since 2013.

On the national-level, Barr is a member of the board of directors of the non-land grant Agricultural and Renewable Resource Universities where since 2017 he has served as the group’s treasurer.

Under Barr’s direction the Northwest ag school has grown in university student population and influence in the agriculture career fields throughout the midwest.

Other speakers which will address the VIPs are Matthew Strueby, USDA and American Peony Society representative Lois Girton. The VIPs will also have an exclusive tour of the peony plots with Juergen Steininger, Hollingsworth Peony farm operator.

A special lunch from Burlington Jct.’s Kiss my Grits cafe will be provided with the VIP ticket.

The event is offering a special giveaway of a variety of peony roots. There will be two bundles, valued at $200 and $300 each, of the five or more roots will be shipped to two lucky ticket holders later this fall. There will be only 100 tickets sold so the chances of winning are good. Tickets, $20 each, may be purchased at the Maryville Forum and Nodaway News Leader or at the Bloomin’ Peony Tour event.