Farmers throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states look forward to mid-August because they’re eager to attend Ag Progress Days. This year’s event, held Aug. 15-17, featured picture-perfect summer weather which was ideal for demonstrations, equipment displays and tours of Penn State’s research efforts.
“With the beautiful weather for the three days, it went as smoothly as it could go,” said show manager Jesse Darlington after the annual event closed. “Wednesday was the biggest day.” Darlington estimates the event drew about 42,000 people over three days. More than 500 exhibitors were present and were happy to spend time talking with visitors about a variety of ag-related products and services.
Darlington says the demonstrations typically draw the biggest crowds. “Whether it’s cooking food, equine activities, corn planting or hay making — those really draw the crowds. The safety demos also draw a lot of people.”
One tour which hasn’t been offered for several years was brought back for 2017 and it quickly sold out. It was the tour of the Russell Larson Research Farm, offered late Wednesday afternoon. “That bus was full,” said Darlington, adding that a host on the bus answered questions as the tour progressed. “We’re still in the planning stages but I’d like to offer more of that tour next August. It really shows what the college is doing.”
With continued emphasis on water availability and quality, visitors viewed exhibits on watersheds — particularly the Chesapeake Bay — as well as stream restoration, keeping pesticides out of drinking water, lead in drinking water, aquatic invasive species and streamside forest buffers. In an Ag forum, held town hall style on Tuesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences Rick Roush discussed issues facing the state’s agricultural industry with an emphasis on water quality.
In a special ceremony, Secretary Redding honored the Wendell Henry family whose Fulton County farm has been in their family for 200 years, thus being designated a Pennsylvania Bicentennial Farm. Redding also presented Century Farm awards to Dwight D. and Nancy J. Messersmith of Montour County and to the Leroy and Barry Barnes and Genevieve Robine family of Blair County.
At the Government and Industry Luncheon on Wednesday, Governor Tom Wolf recognized Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry as one of the state’s most important economic and environmental resources and stressed the need for continued support to ensure long-term success.
Tours this year included the American Chestnut Foundation plantings, high tunnels, short rotation wood crops for biomass, woodlot management, habitat management, deer management and dairy beef feedlot. In addition to the Larson Research farm tour, new tours offered this year included industrial hemp, adaptive grazing soil health, and stream buffers and native grass.
Farmers of all ages were drawn to various equipment demonstrations held throughout the show, including alfalfa hay mowing, hay merging/tedding, bale handling, no-till corn planting and drones. Several farm safety demonstrations, including safety around hay holes and skid steers, were also popular.
Darlington says the Penn State Master Gardeners tent was full and busy as volunteers answered questions and that the demonstration plots outside the tent were especially attractive this year. Exhibits on honeybees and native pollinators in the same area also drew considerable interest.
Although Ag Progress Days is designed to showcase modern agriculture, the Pasto Agricultural Museum on the grounds is a reminder of just how far agriculture has come in a relatively short time. Volunteers were happy to talk about winter on the farm in the past, early pork processing, hay making, small grain handling with horse-powered equipment, tools for the forest industry and dairy farming.
Ag Progress Days is one of the top agricultural events in the state and one of just three agricultural events in the nation sponsored by a major university. In addition to about 55 acres for events and 35 acres for parking, the show devotes 80 acres to crop ground that’s used for field crop, safety and equipment demonstrations.
If you missed this year’s Ag Progress Days, be sure to mark your 2018 calendar for Aug. 14, 15 and 16 and come to Rock Springs to see the latest in agricultural innovations.