Coordinators of this year’s Susquehanna County Ag Day hope to attract a record number of visitors to Elk Lake High School in Springville with an expanded workshop schedule, more than 80 vendors of ag-related resources, as well as a free community lunch and PA Farm Show Milkshakes sponsored by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation.
There are many aspects of farming, gardening and land use that require both general and specific knowledge to ensure success. Penn State Extension staff are seeing an increased interest among the general public in raising food for personal consumption, as well as from farmers who are looking to diversify their portfolios. Topics range greatly this year from right-sizing dairy herds, food preservation and solar energy to risk management, mental health and swine production.
“There are a lot of agricultural, food-oriented workshops, including master gardeners demonstrating seed starting and planting for pollinators,” said Karen Bracey, the Extension’s food families and health educator. “There will be a lot of information for people who are not necessarily farmers but interested in gardening and the natural world. The Spotted Lanternfly is another huge topic and a huge concern for people in agriculture.”
Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation is the key sponsor of Ag Day, which is coordinated by the Penn State Extension in cooperation with the Elk Lake School District and Susquehanna County 4-H. Cabot is providing free lunch for vendors and guests who register by Wednesday, March 4 online or at 877-345-0691, and free PA Farm Show Milkshakes to all Ag Day guests.
“Cabot is pleased to increase its support for Ag Day as the Penn State Extension continues to expand its offerings,” said Bill desRosiers (above), external affairs manager for Cabot. “We encourage everyone to take advantage of the workshops, including Dan Brockett’s update on the Marcellus shale specifically for landowners.”
The workshops are conducted in a classroom setting throughout the day. Registration is recommended, as remaining seating for some sessions is already limited. “There are more people registered at this point in the year for the workshops,” said Bracey, noting that participation in the sessions has been on the rise. The schedule is accessible and registration can be completed online at https://extension.psu.edu/susquehanna-county-ag-day.
It’s not only the variety of workshops offered by the Extension, Bracey noted, but also a range in focus on the content presented that might impress some first-time Ag Day guests. Some sessions provide very specific information, like that needed for Pesticide Certification. Others approach topics from a broader perspective and allow for more questions and discussion.
As the Extension works with dairy producers to maintain their viability, educators and specialists are also adding workshops to the Ag Day roster that provide the latest information on optional crops and livestock. Swine production, for example, is a new topic that will be covered in depth by Elizabeth Hines, Extension swine specialist.
“Interest in swine production is growing dramatically,” Hines (above) explained. “As the population increases, the demand for protein will follow it. With pork being the most consumed animal product in the world, it is likely that production needs will increase along with demand.” Pennsylvania is the twelfth largest pork producer in the United States, she offered, raising more than 3.1-million hogs per year.
Extension food safety & quality expert Amber Denmon will offer basic information on home food preservation, including canning methods, freezing and drying food. An important part of her presentation will address potential C. botulinum contamination with the water bath method of canning. “One misconception is that everything can be water-bathed, and that is not the case,” Denmon cited as an example. “C. botulinum (which can cause botulism) can form a protective, heat resistant spore that requires a higher temperature than boiling water to be destroyed.”
While foods not properly prepared may pose a threat to the physical well-being of growers, farmers are faced with a mounting wall of bureaucracy, costs, and other burdens that can impede one’s mental wellness and sense of security. Lynn Kime and Suzanna Windon will discuss risk management and stress management, respectively, to show growers that their concerns are common as are the days when a farmer simply wants to give up.
“Risk management should be a part of your farm, family, or business, as we all face risks throughout what we do,” Kime (above) maintained. “My presentation will introduce a tool to use to consider what risks you face each day.”
“I think stress management for farmers is something that is coming more to the forefront,” Bracey offered. “The stress that ag producers are under comes from so many different directions.” Windon’s discussion on stress management will approach depression and address the stigma of reaching out for help. Bracey will also host a resource table at Ag Day.
Brockett is an Extension educator from Venango County who will facilitate a conversation among shale landowners about what the future might bring in the face of low gas prices. “There is a difference in the northeast from the rest of the state and the rest of the world,” Brockett noted. “There’s incredible gas resources in that region, so that makes it more economical for them than some of their peers even in the western part of the state.”
Brockett (above) will also discuss the pipelines reaching new markets and some of the challenges and obstacles on that front, and he is hoping that workshop participants come ready with their questions and concerns.
An alternative energy source will also get its day in the sun at this year’s Ag Day. Peter Wulfhorst (above), economic & community development educator for the Extension, will discuss the viability of solar farms and private solar use to meet energy needs. “Pennsylvania is well-situated to lead the country into the next age of energy development with clean, renewable solar photovoltaic (PV) energy,” he stated. “This workshop will address changes in public policy that will encourage broader scale deployment of sustainable energy technologies, as well as the trade-offs in the use of both public and private areas.”
Additional presenters and workshop topics include Casey Guindon, pesticide credit updates; Maureen Hoover, entomology; John Benscooter, funding for farmers and government cost-sharing programs; Cocetta Schirra, planting for pollinators; Sarah Wurzbacher, Spotted Lanternfly; Mike Lunak, dairy herd right-sizing; Lori Wallace, seed starting; Howard Burkett, soil testing; Dave Hartman, raising sheep and goats; and Ed Price, water resource management.
Extension food expert Amber Denmon will address methods for and misconceptions about food preservation.
Mike Lunak, the Extension’s new regional dairy specialist, will discuss right-sizing of dairy herds.
Planting season is just around the corner, and master gardener Lori Wallace will demonstrate seed starting.
Spotted Lanternfly expert Sarah Wurzbacher will bring growers up to date on the invasive insect that hasn’t yet met a plant it didn’t like.
Catch up on sheep and goat raising with Extension educator David Hartman.