Ag Innovations Summit Ignites a Wave of Rethinking About the Fundamental Importance of Agriculture
Posted: June 10, 2011
Fast forward thousands of years to find Adams County, nestled in the southern reaches of Pennsylvania; it is a region that has stayed true to the fundamental pillar of modern existence, agriculture. Adams County ranks first in the state of Pennsylvania for apple and peach production. Livestock and poultry, and dairy production also rank very highly within state records. The daily operations and tasks performed on any particular farm ensure in no small way, the successful cultivation of naturally grown and healthy food choices for consumers in many parts of the country.
Agriculture plays an integral part of Adams County culture, community, economy, and quality of life. “Beyond providing a beautiful landscape, agriculture makes a positive social, economic, and cultural contribution to the fabric of the County,” says Katie Ellis, Penn State Ag Innovations Extension Educator. Adams County is generously endowed with a strong natural resource base and a number of agricultural support industries. These qualities allow for a diverse range of agricultural institutions. She continues, “Our region boasts of roadside and farmers’ markets, bountiful field crops, and numerous fruit, vegetable, poultry, livestock, and fiber operations. The sustainability and necessity of agriculture has helped sustain the county through tough times during the recent economic downturn.”
However, due to the limiting factors of natural resources, as well as to urban expansion, agricultural stability has an uncertain future and long-term agricultural viability is at risk. In these modern times, many in the urban realm have become insulated by the apparent abundance of food— an illusion fostered by new technologies that facilitate the growth, distribution, and storage of food, clouding the reality that agricultural production remains a difficult occupation that faces risks and an uncertain future, just like any other business. As a result, humanity’s fundamental dependence on agriculture is often widely overlooked.
The first and second Adams County Ag Innovations Summits served to ignite a wave of rethinking about the fundamental importance of agriculture. Tara Baugher, Penn State Tree Fruit Extension Educator, says that the goal of the summit meetings was to “secure a stronger future for Adams County agriculture.” She added that, “By building cooperation across all facets of the rural sector, we will develop and implement new, innovative approaches that will meet today’s farming challenges, thus securing long-term agricultural viability, and a strong future for Adams county agriculture.”
Mark Clowney, Adams County Ag Land Preservation Ag Specialist, said that “It is important to recognize agriculture as a foundation for our local economic development among other things. People do not realize that it is a business that creates jobs and economic opportunities for many people. In holding these Ag Innovation Summits, our aim is to ensure economic stability so that farmers may continue to prosper in the region.”
For the first Ag Innovations Summit, “we gathered together local, governmental, and agricultural communities in order to establish much needed, yet reasonable goals for the future of Adams County agriculture,” says Mark Clowney. They settled on three main goals concerning land use issues, agricultural production, and marketing and development, out of which came many successful initiatives. “The land use committee garnered support to set up a preservation bond, called the Adams County Water and Land Protection Bond, which was able to accumulate $10 million dollars for the purpose of land and water preservation,” affirms Mark Clowney. The agricultural production and marketing groups conducted studies on new technologies to improve efficiency and innovative marketing strategies, respectively.
The second Ag Innovations Summit, held more recently in February 2011, built off of the goals of the last Summit. “We asked ourselves: what do we need to address next to ensure the continuation of a stable future for Adams County agriculture,” says Katie Ellis. The second Ag Innovations Summit action plan included a number of initiatives to help promulgate the importance of agriculture, especially in this community. The Summit team decided on emphasizing the promotion of agricultural education in college institutions as well as in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. A further goal was to encourage farm profitability and sustainability through transition planning, business planning and business management, efficient production and labor technologies; and energy conservation and efficiency. The Agricultural Marketing team focused on renewing interest in food policies, consumer education, and agro-tourism in order to foster lasting relationships between local producers and local buyers, like restaurants, institutions, schools, and caterers, and to further support local farm market organizations.
“Looking to the future, we hope to ensure that agricultural practices remain profitable for farmers, and that they continue to have enough available resources to flourish through accomplishing the goals set down by the Ag Innovations Summit,” says Mark Clowney. “There is a risk that this area could fall into a steep economic decline, so we must do everything in our power to ensure that our local farms remain competitive in the field, utilizing technologies to facilitate this, and also finding the next new niche in the ever-evolving agriculture sector.”
Agriculture was the kick-start to modern civilization, and as such, is the fundamental basis of community. It ensures the upkeep of health and nutrition in communities, breeds food security and fosters a higher quality of life and better inter-personal relationships between neighbors. It is a source for economic growth as well as provides numerous job opportunities for many people. There is a never-ending demand for its products. Despite its importance, agriculture faces an uncertain future in Adams County due to various pressures. Thus it is imperative that the community at large strives to support local agricultural initiatives in line with Ag Innovations Summit goals, as well as help Adams County agriculture grow strong and remain stable in order to keep our community healthy, and to invest in a sound future.
Amelia Jarvinen is an Ag Innovations Program Assistant at Penn State Extension serving Adams County. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workplace. Penn State Extension in Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg, PA 17325, phone 717-334-6271 or 1-888-472-0261, e-mail AdamsExt@psu.edu. For more information on the contribution of agriculture to Adams County, click on the attached publications - A Home in the Country, Contribution of Agriculture to Adams County, and Adams County Ag Innovations.
Cherries are on Their Way!
The sweet cherry is a local delicacy that possesses a remarkably short growing season. Depending on the conditions of a specific season, local sweet cherries are only available for about a month, give or take a couple weeks. Although peaches and apples account for the majority of tree fruit production in the county, fresh sweet cherries have remained an important crop, especially for direct marketers. In total, there are 74 acres in sweet cherry production located on 22 farms throughout the county. And, many local growers are planting more sweet cherries using innovative growing techniques in order to fill the increasing demand. Sweet cherries will be available very soon at all of the Adams County Farmers Market locations listed below. Jim Remcheck, Penn State Ag Economic Development and Marketing Educator
Visit the Adams County Farmers Market Association’s website and sign up for a newsletter.