Penn State Extension and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) collaborated to provide bilingual training to English and Spanish speaking farmers and agricultural workers in western Pennsylvania this summer. Thirty people attended two workshops on weed identification and weed scouting; Spanish was the primary language for five participants.
The first workshop was held on July 27th at Harvest Valley Farms in Gibsonia, a fruit and vegetable farm that has hosted meetings of beginning and establishing farmers in the area since 2015. The second workshop was held on August 30th at Johnston’s Evergreen Nursery near Erie, and included Hispanic crew workers from this large nursery operation. Penn State Extension Educator Lee Stivers facilitated the hands-on sessions on weed identification and scouting. USDA NRCS Conservationists Gisela Carmenaty (at Harvest Valley Farms) and Zenik Crespo (at Johnston’s Nursery) presented information about the technical services and cost sharing programs offered by NRCS. Gisela and Zenik also served as translators for Spanish-speaking participants.
At the beginning of each workshop, participants walked through production fields and gathered samples of weeds they found, including ones they recognized and ones they did not. Gathered around picnic tables, and armed with hand lenses, notebooks, and copies of Penn State Extension’s Stubborn Weeds of Pennsylvania and Malezas de Pennsylvania (Spanish version), participants worked together to identify a variety of weeds, including annuals, perennials, grasses, sedges and broadleaf weeds. This hands-on activity sparked lively discussions about how to control weeds in different production systems, and about invasive weeds to watch for, such as Palmer amaranth. To wrap up the session, Lee presented recommendations on how and when to scout for weeds, how to use scouting information as part of an integrated weed management strategy, and general considerations for control of annual, biennial and perennial weeds.
Results of a short post-workshop survey show that participants gained important knowledge about weed identification and management, and that they intend to use this information to improve production and profits at their operations. Twenty-nine surveys were returned.
- 97% indicated that they were interested in developing more sustainable practices for managing weeds.
- 83% indicated that they learned something that had the potential to make their farm/operation more profitable in the future.
- Asked about the estimated potential increase in profits per acre as a result of better weed control, seven participants indicated a range of $25-500/acre.
- 90% intend to use Penn State Extension’s weed guide to help them identify weeds.
- 62% intend to adopt new weed scouting practices.
- 66% intend to apply a new weed management practice.
In addition, individual participants commented that they would use the information from the workshop to identify weeds on their operations, time herbicide applications for better control, scout earlier to catch weeds in seedling stages, and involve workers more in weed control plans.
Workshop host Lori Follett, of Johnston’s Evergreen Nursery, confided that her workers felt especially appreciated and valued by being included in the workshop. Lori followed up with this message: “Thank you very much for having the weed ID and scouting meeting yesterday. We enjoyed it very much. I received some very positive feedback from [four Hispanic crew workers who attended]. We very much appreciate the translation as well. I hope this is the first of many.”
This project was funded by a PDA Specialty Crop Block grant and a NE SARE grant. To obtain a copy of either Stubborn Weeds of Pennsylvania or Malezas de Pennsylvania, please contact Lee Stivers.
Growers use Penn State Extension’s Stubborn Weeds of Pennsylvania to identify weeds at Harvest Valley Farms in Gibsonia. Photo: L. Stivers, Penn State
Photo 2. Gisela Carmenaty (right) describes services and resources available to growers through USDA NRCS. Photo: L. Stivers, Penn State