Start Farming Blog

February 25, 2016

New and experienced growers alike may often overlook the importance of regular equipment checks and maintenance during the heat of the season. Take a look at the top 10 tractor checks to prepare for the season and to get yourself and your staff in the habit of performing regular checks. Being proactive can go a long way!

February 22, 2016

In a recent article I described some important aspects of designing field experiments to avoid biasing the data. The take home lesson was that treatments should be replicated and randomized. In this article I will describe methods to summarize and interpret the data resulting from field experiments with a single qualitative treatment variable.

Companies, such as Pennsylvania’s Adams County Nursery, had their booths set up at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Conference to service not only the demand for eating apples but needs for the growing hard cider industry.
February 22, 2016

February 1 - 4, 2016 was the annual gathering of growers, from across the region for the Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Conference. This educational event allowed growers to obtain the latest information on issues surrounding crop production, marketing, food safety, and farm labor. In addition, participants got to see new products and innovations in the trade show with over 160 exhibitors.

Spanish session participants practice identifying weeds with a hands-on activity. Photo credit: H. Nunez Contreras.
February 18, 2016

Since 2009, Penn State Extension has hosted a full-day session at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention (MAFVC), taught completely in Spanish. These sessions have targeted Hispanic and Latino farmers, farm managers and farm workers, working in horticultural crop production. Bilingual educators from surrounding states have collaborated in the project, and helped to create a learning environment that is friendly, engaging, inclusive, and highly relevant.

Chives ready to flower in early spring
February 17, 2016

Growing culinary herbs can be a profitable niche market, but not much research has focused on growing culinary herbs on a commercial-scale in our area. Most of the information in this article is from available research, as well as from Tony Ricci of Green Heron Farm in Three Springs, PA and Deb Brubaker, Jackie Swihart and Allison Glick of Village Acres Farm and Foodshed in Mifflintown, PA.

February 11, 2016

That's's seeding time! As you finalize and receive your seed orders for this coming season, you may be wondering what preventative measures you can take to avoid some common disease issues this year. One tactic is to treat the seed of specific crops with a hot water bath to reduce the incidence of seed-borne pathogens.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announces a new financing avenue for farmers to buy and improve property.
January 28, 2016

On January 19, 2016 Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin offering farm ownership microloans, creating a new financing avenue for farmers to buy and improve property. These microloans will be especially helpful to beginning or underserved farmers, U.S. veterans looking for a career in farming, and those who have small and mid-sized farming operations.

Photo courtesy of Extension Educator, Heather Manzo
January 27, 2016

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to marketing your agricultural products.

Riesling vines that show severe dieback due to winter kill. Photo: Bryan Hed
January 21, 2016

The past two winters have ramped up concerns about crown gall in Pennsylvania and other parts of the Northeast. Wine grape growers are discovering, many for the first time, the horrors of this disease and the extent of the damage it can cause in their vineyards. While there is reason for great concern, I would like to start out by saying that research efforts are generating extensive information on management of this disease, and there are new solutions from research in the pipeline.

Young Latino growers learn how to scout an orchard during a hands-on field training.
January 19, 2016

Penn State Extension is assessing how best to tailor our outreach and extension programming for those of you who will be the next generation of farmers. Our goal is to provide opportunities for active learning of research-based information that is applicable to your farm operation.

January 15, 2016

When it comes to managing fire blight, the first line of defense is good sanitation, which is removing the overwintering source for the bacteria: cankers. Understanding what a canker is, being able to identify them in orchard, the importance of removal, and pruning strategies are discussed.

January 15, 2016

Revised every two years with input from Penn State faculty members, extension specialists and other consultants, this nearly 400-page production guide provides commercial fruit growers, extension educators, consultants, and others with the newest information on fruit culture, orchard nutrition, spraying, pesticides, storage of tree fruit crops, marketing, and management of weeds, insects, diseases and more.

Pruning just before a cold snap increases susceptibility to injury.
January 14, 2016

Unlike some flowering landscape trees, peaches, cherries, apples and pears originated in a temperate climate, similar to our own. They are well-adapted to our climate, even in an el Niño year. Most fruit trees went dormant this fall, and stayed dormant. Fruit trees begin to go dormant in response to shortening day length in the fall. Exposure to freezing temperatures accelerates the onset of dormancy. Although this past fall was warmer than usual, the fruit trees got the necessary signals and went into dormancy.

Example of a randomized complete block design layout for comparing treatments in a peach block. Treatments were applied to multiple-tree units in each of 4 rows in the block.
January 14, 2016

Research performed by universities is relatively expensive because we have to pay for the considerable infrastructure associated with research, including the salaries of trained researchers and technicians. Recently some growers have expressed a desire to perform their own research to save money.

January 13, 2016

As producers make their way into lambing and kidding season, it brings to mind replacement selection and which factors to consider in that essential management task. Penn State 4-H Educator, Bob Brown, reviews and emphasizes the importance of weighing in your lambs and kids.

Cold-injured primary blackberry bud (left) and uninjured secondary bud (right).  Photo credit: Fumi Takeda, USDA-ARS-AFRS
January 13, 2016

Although the earth is warming as a whole as a result of climate change, the weather is also becoming more variable resulting in early-winter cold snaps, winter thaws followed by extreme cold events, and early spring bloom followed by frosts.

January 11, 2016

The Ag Entrepreneurship team has developed a series of Learn Now Videos for new, young and minority growers. The goal is to increase next generation skills in identifying appropriate markets for their farm-fresh and value-added horticultural products.

January 7, 2016

Are you a lifetime farmer, just getting started, or looking to take the leap? Well, this podcast is for you! Whether his guests are discussing employment philosophy or the best techniques for cultivating carrots, his down-to-earth conversations with experienced farmers - and the occasional non-farmer - will be time well spent. The Farmer to Farmer Podcast provides a fresh and honest look at everything from soil fertility and record-keeping to getting your crops to market without making yourself crazy. Check out the Farmer to Farmer Podcast and other fantastic resources for farmers at

January 7, 2016

“Tracking the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug” shows growers and others how to identify BMSB, why this pest is important in agriculture, and what’s at stake if we don’t stop it. Four new installments bring important new information about integrated pest management or IPM in terms of biological control, monitoring and trapping, and the iconic pyramid traps. These new videos show just how far our team has come in understanding this peculiar and pernicious creature, and why the newly hatching Trissolcus insect, now in the wild, could change the game.

January 4, 2016

One of the biggest questions a new grower faces is where and how to obtain loans for business start up. Even after the start-up phase, loans often continue to be an essential aspect of business establishment and expansion. No matter who you plan to take your loan from, a review of "The C's of Credit" can help you get organized for approaching your lender.