April 1, 2023

In This Issue: 

Ending Farm Stress, Farmworker Videos, 8.6 Billion Ag Economy, Dietary Value of Potatoes and more.

We apologize for the lateness of this week's Update again.

Ending Farm Stress Focus of Georgia Summit

A recent meeting of Georgia organizations worked to alleviate a web of stressors that press Georgia growers.

The March 20 Farm Stress Summit focused on farm family health and wellness, including strategies for enhancing collaborations to cohesively support farm families and proven and emerging practices for combatting farmer mental health challenges.

As the backbone of Georgia’s No. 1 industry, farmers face insurmountable pressures that are often beyond their control. Increased input costs, market variability, environmental disasters and labor shortages are just a few of the challenges.

The summit at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, brought together farmers, government officials, community leaders, health care specialists, university faculty and program staff from around the state to learn more about the unique stressors farm families experience and strategies for building a network of support.

Marshal Sewell, strategic accounts manager for Bayer Crop Science and a fifth-generation farmer, delivered this year’s keynote address. Charismatic and confident, Sewell captivated the audience as he shared his family’s story.

“I’ll never forget that day,” he said. “The day my father decided the world would be a better place without him in it.”

Sewell told the hushed audience that, following a crop failure on the family’s strawberry farm while he was in high school, he lost his father to suicide. It was then that he realized the nuanced challenges farmers face get buried under the generational stigma of openly discussing mental health in the farming community. A sobering reality for many in the agricultural industry, suicidal thoughts and depression are too often overlooked. See more here.

EFI Videos Highlight Farmworkers

Equitable Foods Initiative (EFI), the multi-stakeholder workforce development and certification organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers, and consumer groups, has announced the development and release of a two video series, A Day in the Life of a Farmworker.

The release of the videos coincides with the March 25-31 Farmworker Awareness Week.

The concept was developed and implemented by EFI’s leadership team committee, which advises the EFI board of directors and is made up of farmworkers and managers from EFI-certified farms. The committee worked with their farming operations and coworkers to develop the video series to educate and raise awareness of the realities of being a farmworker, according to a news release.

Each video depicts a typical day of the featured farmworkers, their challenges, triumphs, and personal motivations. The first video in the series follows a single mother and strawberry harvester in California, and the second video features a married couple who both work as quality control reviewers at a strawberry farm in Mexico. The series is designed to highlight some of the special challenges farmworkers face as well as the benefits they’ve experienced working on EFI- certified farms. See more here.

New York Company Seeking Local Pickle Source

Eddie’s Pickles (Eddie's Pickles | Heritage & Health | Since 1888 (eddiespickles.com)) is seeking a local supplier of cucumbers. They are based in NY. They are looking for Kirbies/pickling cucumbers all summer long (winter too if a producer has greenhouses). During the summer season they can use up to 60,000 lbs but can work with what you have. Size 2 A 2B and 3AL. Contact is Ralph (the owner) at Eddie’s Pickles: [email protected].

Growers Needed for Nanotechnology Adoption Survey

Carnegie Mellon University is seeking growers to participate in a survey about nanotechnology adoption. The project, titled "Developing a Mental Model for Grower Agricultural Nanotechnology Adoption", is focused on understanding how growers who produce food for human consumption would think about adopting nanotechnology for agriculture. The intent is to understand how growers think about this emerging type of technology so that it can be developed with their concerns and needs in mind. In brief, nanotechnology is being developed to deliver agrochemicals, like fertilizers and pesticides, more efficiently to reduce waste and improve farming efficiency. This study involves a semi-structured 40-minute interview conducted virtually via Zoom. There is no preparation necessary to participate in the interview and all published results will be de-identified to protect your privacy. There is no compensation for participating in this study. However, the information gathered is critical to the development of this new technology and your responses will help direct research and communication efforts moving forward. If you are interested, please contact Ben Therrien ([email protected]), a graduate student in the departments of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Engineering & Public Policy, with any questions or to schedule an interview. 

The 2022 Census of Agriculture – There’s Still Time To Be Counted!

[Pennsylvania] farmers still have time to be counted in the 2022 Census of Agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Although the deadline for submitting the ag census has just passed, NASS will continue to accept completed census questionnaires through the spring to ensure all farmers and ranchers take advantage of the opportunity to be represented in the widely used data.

NASS will continue to follow up with producers throughout the spring with mailings, phone calls, and personal visits. Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to complete their ag census either online at agcounts.usda.gov or by mail as soon as possible.

This article for New Jersey farmers is equally applicable to Pennsylvania growers. The Census of Agriculture is especially important for vegetable, potato and berry growers. Our industry has no other way to measure the economic importance the vegetable, potato, and berry industry without the acreage and other information derived from the Ag Census. It may seem like a bother or invasion of your business information, but the aggregated information from the Ag Census is very helpful in showing legislators, university administrators and grant administrator the importance of our industries. If you have have not filled out your Ag Census form, please do so today.

U.S. Food and Agriculture Contribute $8.6 Trillion to the Economy — and Growing, Report Says

On National Ag Day, recognizing agriculture’s contributions to society, FMI – The Food Industry Association joined 24 other food and agriculture groups in releasing the seventh annual “Feeding the Economy” white paper, which outlines the food and agriculture sector’s impact on local and nationwide economic activity year over year. 

“FMI is proud to sponsor this research to help shed light on U.S. food and agriculture’s $8.6 trillion contribution to the American economy, which has increased nearly 22% since 2019,” FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said in a news release.

Reflecting a rebound in national economic activity, all 50 states displayed increased economic output in the 2023 report, compared with the 2022 report. See more here.

Dig This — New Study Sings the Praises of Eating Potatoes

Another respected health institution has confirmed potatoes are healthy for you. A Boston University School of Medicine study involving more than 2,500 middle-aged and older adults examined how consuming fried and non-fried potatoes impacted three cardiometabolic outcomes. The study lasted roughly four years.

The research team took a look at any cardiometabolic impact from potatoes cooked in different ways. Here is how those participating in the study prepared the potatoes they consumed:

  • 36% Baked
  • 28% Fried
  • 14% Mashed
  • 9% Boiled
  • (Remainder cooked in other ways)

Eating more potatoes, even fried potatoes, had no correlation with hypertension, type 2 diabetes, impaired fasting glucose, or elevated triglycerides. And when potato consumption paired with more exercise, the team saw lower risks. See more here.

Why Farmers Need To Meet Tech Companies Halfway

Many of you will find farm labor near-impossible to obtain at some point in the coming years. We are constantly looking to farm technology because we believe that’s where the solutions lie to this vexing problem, and we want to help. We listen to you about your problems, and we attend trade shows, etc. talking to folks from the technological developers who are trying to supply you answers.

It’s clear many of you don’t think some of the companies are sufficiently focused on your needs. That’s definitely changing. The tenor of the presentations I hear from high-tech equipment providers increasingly begins with a focus on the grower. It seems to me there is a renewed sense among these companies that they need to make more of an effort to meet you at least halfway if they are going to really understand your problems and provide you answers.

Look no further than the story “The Future of AI in Agriculture” written by Jan Johnson of Millennium Research. She notes that Founder and CEO Gabe Sibley of Verdant Robotics says growers want simple solutions that make their lives easier and their farms more profitable. He also touched on one particular complaint I’ve heard many times over the past several years, that tech provides a lot of data but no way to use it.

“We took about six months on the road talking with growers who said, ‘Do not give us more data, we have too much data. Tell us what to do with it, or better yet, go do it,’” Sibley says. “You have to perform an action that delivers. You actually have to do the work, not give them data or say this is going to be great one day, just go do a job. So that’s what we are delivering — automated weed control in specialty crops.” See more here.

PVGA Scholarship Applications Due May 15

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association is pleased to be able to offer Rudolph Grob Memorial Scholarships each year to students pursuing higher education. For 2022 five scholarships were given as follows:

J. Parker Milton  – University of Delaware, $1,400

Clayton Harner – Penn State University, $1,000

Reagan Kelley – Mansfield University, $1,000

Cody Lehman – Penn State University, $500

Tyler Shannon  – Penn State University, $500

The funds for the scholarships are generated by the interest earned by the Association’s Keystone Fund, an endowment-type fund created by the voluntary extra dues paid the Keystone Members of the Association.

Applications are being accepted for the 2023 round of scholarships. See more here.

How the Best Ag Colleges Around the World Stack up in 2023

It’s time again for the world’s best agriculture colleges to stand up and be counted. Some higher learning institutions shine brighter than others, according to Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), which has just released its latest QS World University Ranking by Subject report.

Compiled and presented annually by the U.K.-based education marketing and networking company, the comprehensive listing is based on a methodology that measures multiple indicators: academic reputation, employer reputation, and research impact gathered from universities across the globe covering 54 different disciplines. According to QS, this year biggest marks its biggest ranking yet, featuring more than 15,700 different academic programs from 1,594 institutions – 103 of which are new. See more here.

Idaho Potatoes Added to Diabetes Meal Program

The Idaho Potato Commission and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) have announced a multi-year partnership making fresh Idaho potatoes the first vegetable to participate in the ADA’s Better Choices for Life program.

The purpose of the partnership is to help educate tens of millions of Americans on ways they can add Idaho potatoes to their meal plan.

Diabetes is one of the country’s greatest health crises. Every 23 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with diabetes and 133 million Americans are living with diabetes or prediabetes. With a mission to prevent and cure diabetes and improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes, the number-one question the ADA receives is, what can I eat? Many wrongly believe they cannot eat potatoes.

“We want those living with diabetes and prediabetes to feel confident eating potatoes with their breakfast, lunch or dinner as long as serving size and preparation recommendations are followed,” Jamey Higham, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, said in a news release. “This partnership aims to enhance people’s understanding of nutrition, especially carbohydrates; help build healthy eating habits and debunk some myths about potatoes and diabetes.” See more here.

Sales and Classified Ads

For Sale

Automatic Potato Weigher and Bagger - Paper and poly.

Call 610-996-1403 for more info. 12/31

Classified Ads and Sale Notices are are free for PVGA members. Email your information to us [email protected].

Reminders and Coming Events

Camp Hill Farmers Market Seeking for Produce Vendors

Market on Market Camp Hill is looking for an additional produce vendor to meet the demands of our newly established Market! The season runs May 16 – Oct 24, Tuesdays 3:00 to 7:00 pm at the Market St. Parking Lot of Trinity Lutheran Church, Camp Hill. For more information contact Mitzi at [email protected] or 717-805-7243.

Penn State Extension to Host Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Training Courses Throughout Pennsylvania

 The Food Safety Modernization Act(FSMA) is the most comprehensive change to produce farming in the past 70 years. Farms with less than $30,000 in gross Produce sales are not covered under this Act. Also, growers who exclusively grow crops not normally consumed raw like potatoes, pumpkins, and sweet corn, for example are not covered by FSMA

One of the requirements of the law is that all growers covered under the Act attend a Grower Training Course. Participants will receive a notebook and receive a certificate of attendance. The cost for the course is typically in the $150 range. This year we have funding from PDA to reduce the cost to $30 per PA grower. See more here.

Next Berry Growers Info Exchange is April 10th at 7:00 p.m.

PVGA is continuing to host a periodic get-together for berry growers. These "Info Exchanges" will be once a month on the second Monday of the month, but given our early sunsets, we have moved the start time to 7:00 p.m. Please join us - meeting are designed to give growers a chance to get time-sensitive updates on current issues from state and regional extension personnel, exchange info with other growers, get answers to their questions, or just listen in or bounce thoughts off of others.  Kathy Demchak is the host.  


Calls are open to PVGA members and non-members to maximize information exchange, so spread the word and invite your friends and neighbors to join. 

The Zoom link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83077021881

The call-in numbers are (be aware that this is not a toll-free call):

+1 929 436 2866 US (New York)

+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC).

The meeting ID is 830 7702 1881

If you have questions, contact us at [email protected] or 717-694-3596.

Listeria Control in Produce Packinghouses

April 14th, 2023. Biglerville, PA.

This is a one-day workshop designed for those who commercially pack, wash, and store fresh produce and are concerned about the potential for contamination with Listeria monocytogenes and other pathogens. Lectures will be presented on FDA regulation of produce packing facilities; the chemistry and technology of cleaning and sanitizing; facilities and equipment sanitary design; the latest research on Listeria prevalence, distribution, and control in packinghouses; and implementing an environmental testing program. Information presented will be useful for individuals in plant operations, quality control, maintenance, and sanitation roles, as well as those that inspect or audit packing operations.

Course information and a link to register is at https://cvent.me/QgE3Vn.

Farm & Food Worker Relief Payments

Starting in March 2023, farm and meatpacking workers can apply for a one-time $600 pandemic relief payment through Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the federal government distributed several rounds of relief payments to small businesses, including farm owners. This relief was vital in keeping many of these small businesses operating during an unprecedented time.

But these relief efforts did not directly support frontline workers, like farmworkers and meatpacking workers, who continued to report to their jobs at the height of the pandemic, when much of the population was ordered to stay home.

Pasa, alongside other organizations across the country, advocated for relief for pandemic-related expenses incurred by farm and food workers. In response, the USDA announced its Farm and Food Worker Relief (FFWR) Grant Program. See more here.

DEP Offers Ag Energy Efficiency Rebates

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Energy Programs Office is offering an Agriculture Energy Efficiency Rebate Program for PA farmers and ag producers. 


Rebates are being offered for the following technology categories:

  1. Energy efficient lighting systems: LED lighting (both interior and exterior), including fixtures and controls (DLC or Energy Star rated lighting)
  2. Energy efficient ventilation equipment: Ventilation fans including both circulation and exhaust fans, motors and controls
  3. Energy efficient dairy and refrigeration equipment: Variable speed vacuum pumps, efficient motors and controls, scroll compressors, well water pre-chillers (plate coolers/heat exchangers), and refrigeration heat recovery (RHR)


All of the above technologies have proven energy savings, which can help reduce operating expenses. The program guidelines detail applicant and equipment eligibility and can be found here: www.dep.pa.gov/agricultureenergy


Rebates will pay up to 50% of equipment purchase costs, up to $5,000. Applicants may apply under all 3 technology categories, but the maximum rebate is $5,000 per applicant. Up to $500 in installation costs may be included in the total project costs for each technology category, to be reimbursed at up to 50%.


The program is open on a first-come first-served basis as funding remains available or through June 30, 2023. You must submit an application to obtain a rebate voucher prior to installing equipment. All applications must be submitted online through eGrants/Electronic Single Application. More information can be found on the DEP website, along with a link to step-by-step application instructions and a link to the online application.