The Pennsylvania Farm Evaluation Program (Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst) is a voluntary farm evaluation that can be used to confirm that a farm is being managed in an environmentally sensitive way. Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst also promotes an awareness of existing site conditions or management practices that threaten the quality of groundwater and surface water.
Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst is adapted from the national Farm-A-Syst program that was developed by the University of Wisconsin in cooperation with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Penn State Extension Service. The Pennsylvania version underwent technical review to ensure that it reflects Pennsylvania’s style of agriculture and is consistent with state regulations.
PA Farm-A-Syst Components
Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst is just getting started. Although it will eventually cover the entire farm, the first emphasis is on the farmstead—around the barn, farm home, and other buildings.
The preliminary screening quiz contains some simple questions about the practices and conditions on the farmstead, which will direct the evaluator to the next step, based on the answers to the quiz.
The farmstead map (drawn by the evaluator) is a handy way to locate important farm items (buildings, roads, wells, septic systems, streams, water bodies, etc.) and to determine the potential sources of pollution based on the location of these items.
Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst worksheets guide evaluators through the practices and conditions on the farmstead that help prevent contamination of groundwater and surface water, or that may need improvement to preserve the quality of water for farm families and neighboring residents. The Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst worksheets currently available are the heart of this program. These worksheets are designed to be completed independently, but they also complement each other.
Completing the worksheets will:
- Improve understanding of conditions and activities that pose pollution risks, and the importance of water quality and environmental protection.
- Aid in developing personal, voluntary action plans to reduce pollution.
- Empower individuals and communities to protect private and public drinking-water sources.
The program also offers an overall farmstead ranking worksheet that transfers the ranking scores from the individual worksheets onto one worksheet for easier comparison, and encourages the evaluator to consider a few changes that could be implemented in the future.
The Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst program can be part of a county education program. A Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst facilitator may be available from a local extension office, conservation district, or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field office. In addition to assisting with the farm evaluation, facilitators may be able to help the farmer find solutions to potential pollution sources. Also available is a sample of a post-evaluation survey. The sample is designed to be adapted by a group or agency that is promoting Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst worksheets and is interested in feedback from anyone who has completed one or more of the worksheets.
Information derived from Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst worksheets is intended only to provide general information and recommendations to farmers regarding their specific farm practices. It is not the intent of this educational program to keep records of individual results. However, at the option of the farmer, they may be shared with others who can help the farmer develop a resource management plan.
What is Available?
- Preliminary Screening Quiz
- Farmstead Map
- Overall Farmstead Ranking
- Post-Evaluation Survey
These materials can be obtained from the local Extension office or Conservation District.
What's In The Future?
Other worksheets may become available at a later date, and will be available from the same sources as the previous worksheets.
For More Information
Contact your local Extension office, Conservation District, or the Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst Program.
Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst Program
PA Association of Conservation Districts
225 Pine Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Connect to the PA Association of Conservation Districts homepage for more information.
Pennsylvania Farm-A-Syst is a cooperative effort among:
- Penn State Extension
- Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts
- Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
- Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service