Penn State’s Ag Progress Days Provides Glimpse into Science and Business of Agriculture

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Everything agriculture and more can be found at Penn State’s Ag Progress Days, which kicks off Aug. 13 and continues through Aug. 15 at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs in Ferguson Township, Centre County.

The event, one of the largest agricultural expos in the East, features 500 commercial and educational exhibits, crop displays, machinery demonstrations, guided research tours, family and youth activities, horse exhibitions, workshops and the Pasto Agricultural Museum.

There also are plenty of food vendors, offering hot sandwiches, lemonade, ice cream and fried fare, among other treats.

The event typically attracts as many as 45,000 visitors from across Pennsylvania and beyond — an estimated 60 percent of whom are directly or indirectly involved in agricultural production — to get a glimpse into the science and business of agriculture.

To make the most of Ag Progress Days, it is helpful to know some of the major demonstrations and activities that are available:

College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building

Spotted lanternflies, invasive plant diseases, robots in agriculture and education and foreign animal diseases will be among the topics highlighted in displays and presentations at the College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building and Theatre.

Native to Asia and found for the first time in the United States in Berks County in 2014, the invasive spotted lanternfly has spread to 14 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania — a region that the state Department of Agriculture has designated as a quarantine zone.

Ag Progress Days visitors can speak with Penn State spotted lanternfly experts, learn how to identify the various life stages of the insect and find out how they can help contain and manage lanternfly infestations.

The Trade Show 

Ag Progress Days offers farm operators “one-stop shopping” to compare goods and services, see the latest machinery in action and find out about new methods and technologies that can help them maximize productivity.

Commercial exhibitors will display virtually every product category, including field machinery, milking systems, animal genetics, storage structures, seed, feed, tools, trailers, sprayers, mixers, livestock housing, utility vehicles, fertilizers, fencing, financial products, insurance and more.

Field demonstrations will give visitors a firsthand look at how the latest models from different manufacturers perform under real-world conditions. Demonstrations this year include planting into green cover crops, direct-cut sorghum chopping, high-speed tillage equipment and all aspects of haymaking.

Youth Activities

The 4-H Youth Building at Ag Progress Days will be brimming with new activities designed to excite kids of all ages. This year’s theme is animal science.

A special presentation will take place Wednesday, Aug. 14, when the Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association will have live rabbits and demonstrations.

Several other activities aimed at children and their families can be found throughout the Ag Progress Days grounds. At the Kids’ Climb, children can don safety equipment and harnesses and climb a tree like a professional arborist; a corn maze offers a fun way to learn facts about Pennsylvania agriculture; and hands-on exhibits at the Pasto Agricultural Museum will give visitors a glimpse into farm and rural life of days gone by.

The Equine Experience

Horse owners and enthusiasts can enjoy a full schedule of training and breed clinics, demonstrations, informational displays and lectures. Penn State equine science faculty and staff will be on hand to provide information on horse breeds, care, training and more.

Rick Shaffer of R&S Paso Fino Stables, of Somerset, will return for breed clinics, and the Centre County 4-H Drill Team will perform on Wednesday. Visitors also can see the draft horse hitch from Spring Mount Percherons of Tyrone and the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association Youth Ambassadors miniature horse performances all three days.

A new addition this year is Bear Hill Horse Logging. Based in Clearfield County, Bear Hill Horse Logging specializes in low-impact timber management, selective harvests and wetlands logging.

Tours

Free, daily tours will allow visitors to see production and management practices being studied by Penn State researchers at the surrounding, 2,400-acre Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center. Tour attendees are transported by bus, but most tours require some walking or standing.

Topics will include high tunnel fruit and vegetable production, managing equine pastures and dry lots, forest management, stream buffers and native grasses, habitat management for deer and other wildlife, hops research and more.

One of the tours provides an overview of the farms at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center. Horticulture, agronomy, plant pathology and entomology farm managers will answer visitors’ questions and present a brief overview of the farm history, current research and student involvement.

Farm Safety and Health

At the Farm Safety Demonstration Area, Penn State farm safety specialists will promote equipment designed to reduce the risk of accidents.

A focus this year will be on the hazards of flowing grain, with daily demonstrations on the best practices to avoid and respond to entrapment risks. Penn State faculty also will demonstrate the safe use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

At the Rural Health and Safety Tent, visitors can take advantage of a variety of health screenings. Free vision tests, blood pressure readings and stroke assessments will be offered daily.

Pesticide applicators can earn one core pesticide credit by attending a 30-minute presentation about personal protective equipment.

Crops, Soils and Conservation Area

In the J.D. Harrington Crops, Soils and Conservation Building, specialists from Penn State and other organizations also will be on hand to answer questions about crop production, hemp education, weed identification and biofuel feedstocks.

The 2019 Pennsylvania Hay Show, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Forage and Grassland Council, will take place in the Harrington Building from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Hay producers can bring samples to be evaluated.

In addition, crop and conservation topics will be featured in other areas of the Ag Progress Days site, including demonstrations on direct-cut sorghum chopping, bagging high-moisture sorghum, high-speed tillage and a cover crop grazing exhibit featuring cattle.

The Family Room

The Family Room building will offer a variety of interactive displays that will get visitors thinking about the overall health and wellness of themselves and their families. Visitors can play games, enjoy healthy foods and drinks, and learn first aid and firearm safety tips.

Hands-on exhibits and demonstrations will cover topics such as understanding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, home food preservation, consumer food safety, the importance of drinking water for proper health and nutrition and pesticide education.

During healthy lifestyles food demonstrations conducted by Penn State Extension educators, visitors can watch the preparation of quick and healthy dishes, taste the resulting fare and receive copies of the featured recipes.

Yard and Garden Area

Pollinator-friendly landscapes is a focus of the Yard and Garden Area. The flowers and plantings in the demonstration plots attract huge numbers of native bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

With pollinators in jeopardy, Penn State Master Gardeners teamed with horticulture faculty members to create and nurture the gardens — located at the end of 11th Street at the show site — to show that supplying pollinators with food and habitat can be beautiful.

In connection with that exhibit, there will be an observation beehive nearby, where experts from the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association and Penn State Extension will conduct honey bee demonstrations and provide guidance.

Attendees also can get advice and information on flower arranging, growing herbs, square-foot gardening, creating habitat for bees and butterflies and growing in high tunnels.

Pasto Agricultural Museum

The Pasto Agricultural Museum offers hands-on exhibits to connect visitors to their agricultural past. The approximately 1,300 items in the collection span from 4,000 B.C. to the 1940s — before the widespread use of electricity and gasoline-powered equipment — when farm and household work was accomplished with the muscle power of people and animals.

A demonstration of the museum’s 1905 Panama O.K. Hay Press will highlight the historical facility’s offerings. The museum also will hold its largest annual fundraiser, a silent auction with hundreds of objects available for purchase.

Funds raised in the 2019 silent auction will underwrite new curriculum development and programming called “THIS! is What AgSci Looks Like.”

Location, Dates and Times

Sponsored by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 14; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 15. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days Web site. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays, and the event also can be found on Facebook (@AgProgressDays).

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