March 25, 2023

In This Issue: 

FSMA Training, Scholarships, H-2A Rules, Webinars, Company Seeking Pickles, Cover Crop Survey, Bob Meek Joins Masser and more.

We apologize that this week's Update is late.

Food Safety Modernization Act: Produce Grower Certification Training

*For Pennsylvania Growers*

Wed., March 29, and Thur., March 30, 2023 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Online

Food Safety Modernization Act: Produce Grower Certification Training is for fruit and vegetable growers, and other persons, interested in learning about product safety, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), and co-management of natural resources and food safety. The PSA Grower Training Course is one way to satisfy the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirement (§112.22.c). See more here.

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.

Why the New H-2A Rules Undermine Growers

Let’s start with something we can all agree on: Increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that Americans consume is a good thing. The list of benefits is long and includes better health, decreased obesity, and reduced disease.

Strong farms and markets also benefit our rural, agriculture-based communities and economies. From the big picture, strong farms also afford our nation the opportunity to be self-sustaining and not to be reliant on other nations for our food supply.

Unfortunately, Southeastern fruit and vegetable producers find themselves in a precarious position at the crossroads of ineffective trade policy and an increasingly cost prohibitive guest worker program. The unlevel playing field facing our growers threatens the very future of our industry and our nation’s ability to feed itself. See more here.

Upcoming Webinar: Introduction to FSA and NRCS Assistance Programs

Thursday, March 30, 2023 12:00 to 1:00pm Online

Registration: Free! Click here to register.

Join us to learn about the technical and financial assistance programs offered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). This workshop is intended for beginning growers who have never worked with these organizations before and for producers who are familiar with FSA and NRCS Programs but have questions about the process and/or programs.

We will hear from Bailey Albert and Jack Loomis, FSA and NRCS Outreach Coordinators, respectively, as well as from Stephen Taranto, Climate Program Coordinator at Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) and Shannon Hickey, Program Manager at Southeastern MA Ag Partnership (SEMAP)—Buy Local groups based in western and eastern MA, respectively—that offer assistance to growers interested in participating in FSA and NRCS programs.

The presentations will cover:

  • An overview of FSA and NRCS technical and financial assistance programs
  • How to connect with your local service centers to receive tailored support
  • Important things to know about the process and realistic timelines
  • Assistance available from certain Buy-Local groups

Following the presentation will be lots of time for your questions. You will be able to type your questions into a Q&A box or raise your hand to ask your question aloud.

This program is co-hosted by UMass Extension, FSA, NRCS and SEMAP, CISA, Sustainable Nantucket, and Sustainable Business Network. Questions? Contact Sue Scheufele at To register, see here.

New York Company Seeking Local Pickle Source

Eddie’s Pickles (Eddie's Pickles | Heritage & Health | Since 1888 ( 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:

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 (, 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 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.

Farmers: Share Your Thoughts on Cover Crops in the National Cover Crop Survey!

Farmers are invited to share their thoughts on cover crops in an online survey at Why do you plant cover crops...or why don't you? What do you want to know? Your insight will help guide research, communications, seed development, and more. This National Cover Crop Survey is the seventh since 2012 conducted by the USDA-NIFA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), with the help of Informa/Farm Progress. "Since 2012, the National Cover Crop Survey has been extremely valuable in helping guide research priorities, direct communications and education efforts, provide data to researchers, and illustrate the effects of policy on cover crop use and adoption," says Dr. Rob Myers, regional director of extension programs for North Central SARE and director of the University of Missouri Center for Regenerative Agriculture. "Data from previous surveys have been used in scientific papers, business planning, extension efforts, media coverage of cover crops, and even included in testimony to Congress."

Please take a few minutes to contribute your voice at After completing the questionnaire, you may enter a drawing for one of three $100 Visa gift cards.

Field Scouting Guide: Whitefly

This field scouting guide concentrates on Bemisia tabaci biotype B: silverleaf whitefly or sweet potato whitefly (SWF).

Two entomologists discuss how to spot and treat this insect — John C. Palumbo, University of Arizona; and Hugh A. Smith, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. See more here.

More Research Information Needed in Battling Plant Pathogens

Sport coaches, athletes, and their teams all recognize the value of knowing their opponent. Analysis, study, and research on their next opponent, called a scouting report, helps increase the chances of success on the court, field, or arena. In farming, your microscopic “opponents,” pathogens that affect your crops, also are worthy of such analysis. Filling in the blanks gives you the best chance of exploiting pathogen weaknesses and devising the appropriate approach to disease management.

Diagnostics and Etiology: The initial task of the researching plant pathologist is to discover the cause of the issue. Etiology is the study of the causes of a disease, so etiology and diagnostics are closely linked in determining what is behind the crop problem.

Is the culprit a fungus, bacterium, virus, or other microbe? What is the scientific name of the microbe? Is it a pathogen known to infect this crop, or is it new to this plant? See more here.

Bob Meek Joins Masser as EVP of Sales

Industry veteran Robert (Bob) Meek joined Masser Family of Cos. as executive vice president of sales as of March 20. Meek will lead the company’s sales strategy for its retail and foodservice businesses and report to Dave Masser, president and CEO.

Meek joins Masser with more than 30 years of experience in the fresh produce industry, where he achieved success through expertise in strategic planning, sales, marketing, organizational performance, process improvement and supply chain management.

Most recently Meek was the CEO of Onions 52 Inc. and held executive roles at Wada Farms, Category Partners Inc., Del Monte Fresh Produce and Potandon Produce/Green Giant Fresh Inc.

“I’m looking forward to working in a multi-faceted company where vertical integration is not just a buzz word; where sustainability is a critical component to profitability; and where I will truly be able to hone a sales approach leveraging all the existing points of differentiation available through the Masser Family of Companies,” said Meek. “I look forward to making Masser the first call for our retail and foodservice customers.”  See more here.

Ideal Leadership Means Being ‘One’ With Your Produce Team

I was catching up on emails with the TV on in my hotel room when Russ T. Blade poked his head out from behind my lamp. “Rusty,” as regular readers know, is the miniature, imaginary produce manager who occasionally appears to talk shop.

Rusty: How can you concentrate on your work with that thing on?

Me: Oh, that’s a YouTube of a popular speaker I’ve discovered of late, Victor Davis Hanson. He’s a professor, historian, author and more. A farmer himself, Dr. Hanson grew up on his grandfather’s farm in Selma, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley. An incredibly intelligent man with a an especially keen perspective, often invoking and comparing ancient history to modern day events. An inspiration, not a distraction. See more here.

Predicting Future Leafy Green Crop Disease Risk Using Disease History

Past disease presence can indicate a risk for the same disease this year. Many pathogens overwinter on infected plant material or as pathogen survival structures. Poor sanitation practices can lead to an increased risk of these diseases in the upcoming season. In addition, pathogens can be introduced via transplants or seeds. A record of leafy green crop (lettuce, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard) disease samples submitted to University of Kentucky Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratories in 2022 are displayed here. The most common disease of leafy greens was root and/or crown rots (Pythium, Fusarium). See more here.

Last Year’s Small Fruit Diseases Equal This Year’s Disease Risk

Disease presence last year can indicate a risk for the same disease this year. Many pathogens overwinter on infected plant material or as pathogen survival structures. Poor sanitation practices can lead to an increased risk of these diseases in the upcoming season. A record of small fruit samples submitted to University of Kentucky Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratories in 2022 are displayed here. The most common diseases of berries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry) were leaf, Pestalotiopsis, spur blight, or twig blight or canker, anthracnose, leaf spots, and root and/or crown rot. See more here.

Free Webinar: Marketing Your Farm – Agritourism

Wednesday, March 29, 2023 12:00 -1:00 p.m.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension is partnering with other New England states to deliver agritourism education. A free webinar will be held to help farmers learn the three essential components of marketing your farm, with a focus on agritourism. Myrna Greenfield is the “Top Egg” at Good Egg Marketing and the author of Marketing Your Farm: A practical guide to attracting loyal customers and increasing sales. Ellen Parlee is the co-owner of Parlee Farms in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, which offers pick-your-own fruit and flowers, along with a farmstand, bakery, ice cream stand, animal petting area, and a food trailer for lunch. Ryan Wilson is the co-owner of DeMeritt Hill Farm in Lee, New Hampshire, which offers pick-your-own apples/peaches/blueberries/Xmas trees, hayrides, school tours, special events, Cross Country running, and hiking trails and has a full commercial kitchen. The farm plays host to Torey Roderick Performance Horses and every October, the world-famous Haunted Overload. Lisa Chase from University of Vermont Extension will moderate the session. See more here.

Webinar: Incorporating Classes into Your Agritourism Business

Thursday March 23, 2023 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension is partnering on a regional project with other New England Land Grant Universities to offer webinars related to agritourism in the northeast.

Join our speakers for Incorporating Classes into Your Agritourism Business, where they will share their experiences with offering, hosting, and teaching classes. As farm and food business owners, you are experts in your craft and likely face endless questions from customers and the public. Why not use this as an opportunity to offer classes, enabling your customers or the public to learn from your expertise? Classes can be tailored to a variety of topics and activities.

Susan Rigg is the owner of and cheesemaker at Whey River Creamery. Susan offers both introductory and advanced hands-on cheesemaking classes. Michele Capron is the co-owner of Lavender Essentials of Vermont. She offers numerous classes, including lavender wreath creations, cooking with lavender, native tea blending, herb garden, and make it – take it. Deb Hartshorn owns White Picket Farm LLC, offering a variety of class experiences, including soap making, creating terrariums, succulent bowls, and more! See more here.

Penn State Extension Offers Numerous Options for Pesticide Recertification

30 online courses with opportunities to earn pesticide recertification credits

Pennsylvania certified pesticide applicators looking for ways to earn recertification credits may want to consider the wide variety of options provided by Penn State Extension, which is offering a 25% discount on all pesticide recertification online courses through March 31.

To maintain pesticide certification, applicators must obtain recertification credits approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at three-year intervals. The program requires six core credits and up to 10 category credits for each category in which the applicator is certified. 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

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 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

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 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

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:


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.