I want to write about some present day activities in the City of Philadelphia and some good “old style” extension and applied research that we have been undertaking in the heart of the city under the gaze of William Penn, perched high atop City Hall. As you may or may not know, myself and other colleagues in the department have been working with high tunnels since 1998 when we started the High Tunnel Research and Education Facility located on the Horticulture Farm at Rock Springs, PA.
Farmers know how important it is to be careful when using pesticides. We all strive to use the least toxic, effective option, read the label and follow the directions, calibrate, measure carefully and wear the required personal protective equipment.
Like many parents, you probably send your children off to school every day with a home-packed lunch that is healthy and catered to your children’s individual tastes. But if that lunch isn’t also packed and handled with food safety in mind, it could wind up making your child sick.
On June 25th, the “Weed Management, Environmental Quality, and Profitability in Organic Feed and Forage Production Systems” project organized a field day in partnership with the Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Association (PASA) Farm-Based Education program. Almost 40 people took part in the full day of hands-on activities at the Russell E. Larson Research Center at Rock Springs to learn about how short- and long-term management legacies influence soil, weed, and insect populations.
As part of a national initiative to reduce food insecurity, faculty in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences will direct a new $5 million project to study whether greater reliance on regionally produced foods could improve food access and affordability for disadvantaged communities, while also benefiting farmers and others in the food supply chain.
Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have been awarded a $2.3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate how certain cover crops and rotations can improve production of organic commodities. The study's goal is to determine whether diverse cover crop mixtures -- as opposed to a single-species cover cropping -- can enhance ecosystem functions in a corn-soybean-wheat cash crop rotation that produces organic feed and forage, according to project leader Jason Kaye, associate professor of soil biogeochemistry.
“To be a successful farmer one must first know the nature of the soil.” It was fitting that Jeff Moyer, Farm Manager for the Rodale Institute, kicked off his workshop on organic no-till practices with this bit of ancient wisdom from Xenophon's Oeconomicus, written cerca 400 B.C. Moyer was speaking to a packed audience at the 2011 “Farming for the Future” conference of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. If there is one thing organic and no-till advocates have in common, it is a passion for soil health. Of course, deciphering the soil’s mysteries and reconciling them with crop management is no less daunting today than in Xenophon’s time.
On September 16th, the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group hosted Thor Oechsner, owner of Oechsner Farms and founding partner of Farmer Ground Flour and Wide Awake Bakery, as the fifth speaker in the Sustainable Agriculture Seminar Series. An energetic farmer with a good sense of humor, Thor enlightened and entertained the audience with the story of his farm, mill, and bakery.
Twenty organic grain farmers met at Summit Valley Farm in New Holland, PA in July. Part of Penn State Extension's new Organic Crop Producer Study Circle series, the focus was on organic weed management for corn, soybeans, spelt and hay.
In order to look at the possible labor and resource savings Penn State Extension educators, working with growers, laid biodegradable mulch at seven sites in Northampton, Berks, Schuylkill, Snyder, and Bucks Counties. Take a look at what we learned and farmer tips on how to work with biofilms.
Carl Schmidt, a member of the Central Susquehanna Valley Organic Crop Growers Network, has been growing a rotation of alfalfa, corn and soybeans on his organic crop farm in Muncy, PA for decades. Now, after seeing small grain crops growing at a fellow network members farm last year, Carl has added winter wheat to his rotation to break up weed cycles, create a spot for a red clover cover crop, and pursue high-value artisan wheat markets. Carl hosted a twilight network meeting on July 7 at his farm to look at the mature wheat crop and discuss his production strategies for corn and soybeans.
Organic milk, meat, poultry and eggs represent some of the fastest growing sectors of the organic market. Because agricultural feed ingredients in the diets of certified livestock must be organically produced, growth in the retail organic market has resulted in increasing demand for organic feed grains and forages, creating opportunities for Pennsylvania growers. Typically, there is a price premium for organic feed grains. In the past, prices for organic feed grains have reached 50 to 150% above conventional prices.
A mix of Ag Producers, Industry, Agency, Extension, and Educators gathered on June 22, 2011 to learn about the new NESARE Sustainable Dairy Cropping Systems Project at Penn State University. The project goal is to sustainably produce all of the food and forage for a 65 cow dairy herd, as well as the fuel for a straight vegetable oil (SVO) tractor.
In July 2011, I initiated an Industry Needs survey for the Pennsylvania wine industry. The purpose of this survey was to get relatively quick input from as many Pennsylvania wineries as possible on their thoughts regarding the extension enology program as well as problem areas that wineries are currently facing. I also used this survey to get a better idea on the best time to schedule educational events and workshops. The full report is available for your review.
Saturday, August 20th was a perfect day for enjoying the tastes, sights and activities associated with Garden in the Parks Field Day. An annual celebration at the North and South Park Demonstration Gardens, the day’s activities are planned and staffed by the dedicated Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County. The 2011 committee did not disappoint, even with two locations to prepare, they were ready!
A four day course in commercial fruit production will be conducted by Penn State Extension this fall.
Sponsored by: Penn State Marcellus Educational Consortium
Sustainability planning provides a useful framework for oganizations seeking to thrive in difficult times
Earworms, armyworms, and stink bugs are showing up in PA sweet corn crops.
Sustainability planning offers non-profit and other community organizations a useful framework for thriving in difficult time