Many faces of agriculture emerge at Penn State's 2011 Ag Progress Days

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In Pennsylvania, agriculture does more than fill supermarkets. It's at once a major economic driver, a steward of natural resources and a preserver of a venerated lifestyle. So it's no surprise that Penn State's Ag Progress Days, set for Aug. 16-18 at Rock Springs, brings together people with a wide variety of perspectives on the production of food, fuel and fiber.

"Whether you are a crop grower, a livestock producer, a parent, a young person, a gardener, a conservationist, or simply a consumer of food, fiber and energy, there is something here to interest you," said Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Now in its 43rd year, Ag Progress Days showcases work done by Penn State faculty, staff and extension educators across the state to help agricultural producers, families, communities and government agencies address economic, environmental, health and quality-of-life issues. With so many diverse stakeholders, McPheron explained, the exposition addresses agriculture from a wide range of perspectives.

"Around the grounds, college specialists, commercial exhibitors and our government and industry partners are on hand to show you the latest technology and answer your questions about crop production, animal science, equine care, home gardening, forest resources, health and nutrition, food safety, farm safety, and a wealth of other topics," he said.

New or special attractions at this year's expo will include:

-- PA One Stop. Come to the Ag Map tent to learn more about a free online tool that lets farmers create maps required for completion of nutrient balance sheets for imported manure and nutrient management plans.

-- Yard and Garden Tent potato plots. Potato farmers and backyard gardeners get to see some traditional Pennsylvania potato varieties plus some new varieties at the Yard and Garden Tent’s new potato plots, with 30 varieties either growing in the soil or freshly dug.

-- Charcoal Production: A Walk Back in History Tour. This woodlot tour covers charcoal production and the role of the colyer or charcoal maker harkening back to the colonial era when hardwood lump charcoal fueled iron furnaces throughout the eastern United States. Historical re-enactors will make charcoal on a forest hearth during the one-hour tour.

-- The Learning Center. Visit to learn about financial and business management, feed management, updated manure-management regulations, technological seed advances in corn production, deer management and conservation topics.

-- AgBiz Masters Graduate Social. Stop by the T. A. Seeds tent on East 6th Street to learn about the AgBiz Masters education program and network with fledgling farmers from across the state, discussing such hot topics as risk management, business management and more.

-- If You Think You Know the College of Ag Sciences . . . Think Again. Learn about careers in agriculture and related fields, which offer more job openings each year than qualified graduates to fill them. Faculty and staff in animal, biomedical, environmental, plant and social sciences will be available to answer questions and provide information to help prospective students see what they can do with an agricultural education.

-- College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building displays and theater presentations. View presentations on water quality and natural gas, stink bugs and other hot topics given by leading researchers and extension specialists in the field. Discover the teaching, research and extension work behind the College of Ag Sciences' programs in energy; pest prediction and response; water quality and quantity; and livestock, dairy and veterinary science. Experts will be on hand to answer your questions.

-- Family Room Building displays and food demonstrations. Interactive exhibits cover such topics as nutrition and food safety, exercise, food allergies, family finances, youth development and family togetherness. Presentations include "Strawberry and Spinach Salad," "Cooking with Nonwheat Pasta: Garlic, Greens, and Pasta Salad," "Fresh Fruit Tart," "Sukuyki: An Easy Way to Use Veggies" and "You Can Can Tomatoes."

-- Marcellus Shale Center. Talk with Penn State extension educators and commercial vendors about renewable and alternative energy options for your home or business. Penn State Extension educators will be on hand to answer your questions on all issues behind natural gas exploration, leasing, and drilling. (West 10th Street)

-- Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation. Come learn about the history of the American chestnut and the foundation's breeding program aimed restoring the tree to the forests. Take a wagon tour of the American chestnut orchards.

Popular features returning to Ag Progress Days include:

-- Research and Conservation Tours. Free bus and walking tours of the 1,500-acre Larson Agricultural Research Center will provide insights on the future of food production and natural resources in the Keystone State.

-- Children's and family activities. The 4-H Youth Building will feature interactive, science-based exhibits and other activities that combine education and enjoyment. At the Kid's Climb, children can safely climb a tree like a professional arborist with ropes and harnesses. Families can find fun and "infotainment" in a one-acre corn maze. Shavers' Creek Environmental Center will offer demonstrations with live wildlife.

-- Machinery and equipment demonstrations. New field demonstrations this year will feature equipment used in planting and overseeding of cover crops, which are a crucial component in maintaining soil, water and air quality in high-yield agriculture. Producers can see state-of-the-art machinery in action and shop for dairy equipment, animal housing, feed, seed, fertilizer and other goods and services.

-- The Equine Experience. Horse owners and lovers can see breed and handling demonstrations, draft-horse and drill-team exhibitions and other events. The Equine Exhibits Building and the Equine Learning Center will host exhibits, workshops and seminars on various horse-health and management topics.

-- The Crops, Soils and Conservation Tent. A variety of organizations and Penn State departments will feature displays on crops, pests, nutrient management, no-till agriculture, woodlot and forest management, deer and wildlife management, renewable energy and biofuels, sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and other topics.

-- Farm safety demonstrations. Specialists will demonstrate tractor overturn hazards and tractor-safety practices. Farm accident rescue simulations involving agricultural equipment, including demonstration of emergency scene stabilization and patient-extrication techniques, will occur.

-- Pasto Agricultural Museum. The recently enlarged and renovated Pasto Agricultural Museum will provide visitors with a glimpse into farming's past. Offering exhibits highlighting the history of agriculture and rural life, the facility showcases an intriguing collection of artifacts.

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, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 16; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 17; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 18. Admission and parking are free. Free shuttle bus service between the Ag Progress Days site and downtown State College will be available.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website at http://apd.psu.edu. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogress.

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Last Updated August 16, 2011