Ag Innovations continues promoting agriculture by learning
Posted: August 21, 2012
In 2005, a group of producers, citizens and ag industry stakeholders held the first Ag Summit to address local agriculture and its future within the community and economic landscape. Priorities were identified within Land Use Planning and Education, Marketing Partnerships and Ag Production Innovations leading to the Adams County Ag Innovations Initiative. Over the years, programs such as the Adams County Green Space Grant Program, on-farm research on production efficiency, a local Farm Fresh Logo and the Spotlight on Agriculture news column in the Gettysburg Times have aimed to improve ag industry opportunities as well as educate the public on local agriculture.
A second Ag Innovations Summit was held in 2011 to reprioritize initiatives and continue the mission “to inspire a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation within rural Adams County, and encourage novel approaches to agriculture’s challenges and opportunities, thus securing a strong future for farming as an integral part of our economy and community.” Committees in Ag Education, Farm Profitability and Sustainability, Ag Marketing and Ag Advocacy have been busy ever since supporting producers, policies and various initiatives to accomplish this vision.
Promoting ag education has always been important to improve on new generations of ag employment as well as continuing education to implement new innovations in machinery, conservation and planting techniques. The Ag Education committee is comprised of a partnership between high school Ag teachers, HACC, Healthy Adams County, Chamber of Commerce, Gettysburg College, Young Farmer’s, Adams County Farm Bureau and Penn State Extension. Most recent events include the ‘Know Your Food’ Farm Bill Forum held in late June as well as a teacher workshop utilizing the ‘Food, Land, People’ PA Department of Education approved curriculum to further ag lessons in classrooms. Adams County is one of the few counties left within Pennsylvania to offer ag education in public schools, a sad fact for a state with such a long history and strong emphasis on agriculture.
While farm profitability and sustainability comes from many factors, the Ag Innovations Initiative has focused on a new generation of growers, innovative research and public outreach. Penn State Extension has been supporting the Young Grower Alliance (YGA), a coalition of young crop growers that support and educate each other through tours at various operations and locations and informative sessions at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. YGA has travelled as far as New Zealand and Canada, as well as all over the United States. They are also sponsoring a young extension agent in Nicaragua along with Project Leon Gettysburg.
Support from ag industry stakeholders and concerned citizens through both Ag Summits positioned Penn State scientists and extension educators to successfully compete for grants to support research projects in new labor saving technologies.
Within Ag Marketing, the Ag Innovations Initiative has supported efforts of the South Mountain Partnership and Fruit Belt signage for improved agritourism around the county. Adams County is lucky to have a range of medium size operations that can market to local operations and sell at larger and smaller quantities. A local Farm Fresh Brand has also been established to notify consumers that foods come from Adams County.
A large part of sustaining and supporting agriculture is Ag Advocacy at the state and local levels. A very popular Ag Issues Breakfast Series invites policymakers, producers and ag community leaders to discuss local, state and national ag issues. Constant support of producers and a variety of operations allows the public as well as policymakers to see how important ag retention is when speaking about budget concerns.
Our hope is that the Spotlight on Agriculture column has brought a light on various agricultural practices commonly unknown. With an increase in public knowledge about conservation, preservation, planning, innovation and research as well as production practices consumers are able to be more involved in their food production.
Coming up on August 20th from 6-7pm will be the first of three Spotlight on Ag Farm Tours! This tour will be held at Brownvalley Farms where Tim and Marcia Brown grow strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, sweet corn, some vegetables and raise steer. A tour of a high tunnel will showcase how Brownvalley Farm is able to have two strawberry harvests in one year—without a heated greenhouse! This tour will allow the public to learn about a local operation and get first hand experience of what life on a farm is like. If you’d like to join- just meet at the farm located at 295 Hickory Road, Littlestown, PA 17340 at 6pm!
A big thank you to all those who have supported the efforts of the Ag Innovations Initiative and continue to do so! Living in a community of people that express their concerns and work towards their passions is something I always hoped for, yet never knew existed in the place in which I grew up. Agriculture sustains our community through economic impacts such as jobs, as well as the nutritional benefit of delicious foods. It is impossible to outline all the impacts that agriculture has on Adams County, but thanks to a dedicated community and ag industry we can continue to hope for its success.
I hope you have enjoyed the weekly Spotlight on Ag column, please let us know if there are topics you’d like to see and learn about for next year’s round!
Sladjana Prozo is the Ag Innovations Program Manager 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 334-6271 or (888) 427-0261, email AdamsExt@psu.edu.