Memorial Day has gone, the weather is improving and most schools are in their last week of classes—this can only mean that summer is almost upon us. With asparagus fading out of season and cherries about to come in, this is a wonderful time to be eating abundant amounts of fresh and locally grown foods.
Living in Adams County has always been a challenge when it comes to conveniences. Often we have to travel to neighboring York, Cumberland or Franklin counties to make larger purchases, but metropolises such as York, Carlisle and Chambersburg are not what Adams County residents are after.
Stop the Agricultural and Natural Resources Center to get a tour of our beautiful trial garden, native garden, and rain gardens and learn about the plants!
All stakeholders are working hard to be heard and recognized as Congress writes up this year’s Farm Bill. As producers lobby for crop insurance and research dollars, low income families fight for minimal SNAP dollars to keep food on their family tables.
If you know anything about water issues in Adams County you know that we live in a county where all water is flowing out. If you don’t’ know anything, you still know that every summer we see droughts and water shortages.
This year will be an important one for food, jobs and agriculture. Congress is already embarking on writing new legislation, commonly known as the Farm Bill, to encompass policies for food, farm, energy, environment, research and trade issues over the next 5 years.
As we bustle through our days from work to various appointments and family engagements we seem to have less and less time left for ourselves. Nonetheless there is a rare yet appreciated moment when one crosses over a hill, drives down an unfamiliar road or simply stops and looks around to soak in the expansive beauty of Adams County.
Living in the country involves vast landscapes, new sounds and odors, and often a farmer for a neighbor. Agriculture is Pennsylvania's #1 industry and annually contributes 4.5 billion to PA's economy. As a rural neighbor there are realities to be faced about living in the country as well as efforts to be made to keep agriculture viable.
A common question we receive from individuals who are growing fruit trees in the home landscape is “Why are my apples (or peaches) so small?” Growing large fruit can also be a challenge for commercial fruit growers. Fruit size is influenced by cell numbers, cell size and intercellular air spaces. Plant physiologists are currently looking more closely at the processes involved in fruit growth and learning more about the pathways that control those processes. Potential implications for the fruit industry are increased product consistency and enhanced orchard sustainability. (Photo : In 2011, area orchards experienced dry conditions during the growing season and record-breaking precipitation, including a snow storm, in the fall. In preparation for the 2012 season, commercial growers are invited to participate in a Penn State Extension Crop Load Management Workshop to be held at the Adams County Agricultural and Natural Resources Center on December 20th.)
As the summer begins to wind down, in preparation for the fall and winter months, my time as an intern at the Penn State Extension Center is coming to an end. The future is only a question mark for me, but for Adams County Agriculture the future has many good tidings. Earlier this year, community and agricultural leaders held an Ag Innovations Summit to explore ways of securing the future of Adams County agriculture through entrepreneurship and innovation. The organizations involved in the Summit meeting are taking steps to ensure that local farms remain competitive in the field and helping farmers find the next new niche in the ever-evolving agriculture sector.
Elaine Lemmon, a young farmer from East Berlin, Pennsylvania began her farming operation eight years ago with a pumpkin patch on a plot of her father’s land. With a background in archeology, Elaine switched her focus from digging in the soils in search of ancient artifacts, to planting seeds and harvesting fruits and vegetables.
Community leaders representing Penn State University, Harrisburg Area Community College, the Gettysburg Adams Chamber of Commerce, Gettysburg High School, the Adams County Tech-Prep Program, and the Penn State Extension Young Grower Alliance recently held a preliminary round table discussion on the current and future climate for formal education in agriculture. The planning session was an outcome of the Adams County Ag Innovations Summit, where agricultural producers expressed the need for locally integrated ag production and business management training to support the future of agriculture in the county. The hope is that an Ag Innovations Education Committee will be formed and that many others will become involved in developing and implementing an action plan to address the growing need for young farmers and farm employees to learn about cutting edge agricultural technologies and business management practices.
In the 1930s, North America experienced a period of widespread ecological and agricultural damage due to decades of farming practices that created erosion. The harm inflicted on the Mid-West caused the great Dust Bowl Effect, which was characterized by severe drought and horrible dust storms. In response to this ecological disaster, the USDA established an organization to directly address the soil, water, and air issues that came out of the “Dirty Thirties” as a result of agricultural practices. At its initiation the organization was known as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) but they have since expanded to become a conservation and stewardship leader for all natural resources, and henceforth became known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS. Since 1935 the NRCS has made it their mission to help America’s private land owners and managers to conserve and restore their soil, water, and other natural resources in order to prove more resilient to environmental challenges, like climate change. “Over the years, we have developed hundreds of different practices to address different farming issues, so just about any problem there is, we have an ecologically responsible approach to resolve the issue,” said Jim Gillis, District Conservationist for NRCS in Adams County. “Our goal is to ensure the productivity of the land through the maintenance of a healthy environment.”
The ever-rising cost of electricity and fuel has highlighted an important issue within the agricultural realm: the effects of energy usage on the sustainability of an agricultural operation. According to an USDA report, approximately 15 percent of agricultural costs are related to energy consumption, and this percentage is higher for horticultural enterprises. Unfortunately, information regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy alternatives for these types of operations is scarce.
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” These wise words, spoken by Plutarch many centuries ago, remain true today: a dichotomous imbalance appears most strikingly in food issues, like food security, where one group has the ability to purchase an abundance of nutritious foods, while the other socioeconomic sector goes hungry because of the inability to afford enough, or the right foods. In Adams County alone, 20 percent of the population is considered food insecure, and an additional 30 percent are suffering from obesity and other food-related diseases linked with poor nutrition. Food security is a necessity of life and is universally recognized as “a condition in which all community residents must be able to obtain a safe, and culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community through self-reliance and social justice.”
On July 13, 200 or more local producers, scientists, and community leaders alike congregated at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center (FREC) in Biglerville, PA to participate in a grower field day program that served as a wonderful educational opportunity for those in attendance. This field day provided attendees with the opportunity to view some of the most cutting edge agricultural innovations in development today by covering important research topics within the fields of entomology, horticulture, nematology, plant pathology, and agricultural engineering.
The Young Grower Alliance, or YGA, serves young farmers as a valued social network and educational symposium for agricultural practices. It is instrumental in fostering successful farm transitions from one generation to the next by equipping young specialty crop producers with useful educational and social tools and also helps to solidify a positive future for agriculture by providing encouragement and support to young farmers. It is a support system that provides numerous educational opportunities, like farm tours, workshops, and demonstrations to the scions of the farming industry. On June 30, a group of young farmers from the Young Grower Alliance (YGA) traveled to Maryland for two such enlightening farm tours of some of the most innovative farming operations on the East Coast, Butler Orchards in Germantown and Catoctin Mountain Orchards in Thurmont. The trip proved to be highly educational in that it exposed the young growers to new agricultural practices and operations, as well as served as a forum for discussion.
Within the last decade, the USDA has introduced the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign, also known as the KYF Initiative, with the objectives of creating new economic opportunities for farmers, strengthening rural communities, promoting healthy eating, and protecting natural resources. The USDA, through the KYF initiative, deems it an urgent task to preserve the farmers’ role in the local economy, because buying products from local farmers markets and participating in agritourism helps circulate more money through the local economy, increasing the general quality of life of an area. This not only strengthens the rural community, but also fortifies a stronger bond between producer and consumer.
Remember earlier this spring when you weren’t dressed until your umbrella was in hand? Now you almost need earplugs to quiet the noise of crunching grass. How long does it take to move from flood to drought anyway?