Penn State presence pervasive at the State Farm Show

University Park, Pa. -- If you need advice on home gardening, stink bugs or how to manage your diet if you have diabetes, Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences might have just the information you're looking for at the 2011 Pennsylvania Farm Show, Jan. 8-15 in Harrisburg, Pa.

The college's presence will be felt throughout the sprawling Farm Show Complex, but the showpiece will be an exhibit offering varied presentations, as well as information for prospective students on academic programs and careers.

Penn State Extension educators and Master Gardeners will offer presentations throughout the week on topics such as pollinator-friendly gardening, how and when to prune shrubs, managing stink bugs, growing vegetables in containers, what you should know about the emerald ash borer, and how to compost with earthworms.

Other presentations will feature the 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Project, water-quality tips and Penn State Extension's Dining with Diabetes program.

4-H clubs also will give presentations on entomology and raising goats, rabbits, guinea pigs and poultry.

Looking for good students

College officials also hope to connect with prospective students at the Farm Show. "We're always looking for good students," said J. Marcos Fernandez, associate dean for undergraduate education.

"We look forward to meeting with families and students of all ages," Fernandez said. "There are many educational and career opportunities in the agricultural sciences, and it all starts at Penn State, one of the premier agricultural colleges in the nation."

Faculty, staff and students from the College of Agricultural Sciences will be on hand with information about the college's programs in the food, agricultural and natural resource sciences. With 19 majors and about $1.6 million in scholarships available, the college has considerable diversity in its academic programs and many educational and life-changing opportunities to offer prospective students, according to Fernandez.

"Graduates in these fields will have an opportunity to help solve challenges related to the food vs. fuel debate, the health of the Chesapeake Bay and other ecosystems, Marcellus Shale gas exploration, biofuels and other renewable energy production, use of technology in farming and food manufacturing, invasive species, sustainability, emerging diseases that affect people, animals and plants, and many other issues," he said.

Renewable energy

Penn State also will take part in the renewable agricultural energy exhibit area in the new Expo Hall. About 40 exhibitors will share the latest information on biomass technologies. Researchers from the College of Agricultural Sciences will showcase how the latest technology can be used to convert biomass feedstocks -- such as wood, switchgrass, canola, mustard, camelina and soybean -- into biofuels and contribute feed for animals.

"The University is showcasing its diverse research and outreach programs aimed at taking the abundant biomass resources of Pennsylvania and turning them into energy products," said Tom Richard, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, who is director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment.

Ag safety and health

The Pennsylvania Farm Safety and Health Quiz Bowl will be conducted by the college at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 12. FFA and 4-H teams will compete in a quiz show format to demonstrate their knowledge of farm safety and health hazards and recommended practices. The quiz bowl also enables participants to increase their leadership and public-speaking skills, according to Dennis Murphy, distinguished professor of agricultural safety and health.

"The quiz bowl helps young people learn about hazards and safety on farms in a fun way," said Murphy. "The kids can enjoy friendly competition while learning information that they can use for the rest of their lives. Teens answer questions covering many farm-safety issues, such as safety with tractors, mowers and other farm machinery, child safety, first aid, animal care and disease control."

4-H exhibit

Adjacent to the college exhibit, the 4-H booth will focus on citizenship and community service. Visitors can write thank-you cards to military personnel and participate in the Pocket Flag Project by folding "pocket flags for freedom."

"Our objective is to get as many pocket flags as we can into the pockets of our military personnel on the front lines," explained 4-H spokeswoman Pamela Paletta, extension educator in Washington County. "We want them to know that we care and that we keep them in our hearts and our prayers."

Finished flags will be provided to front-line troops overseas. 4-H is one of many groups across the country participating in the Pocket Flag Project, a grassroots effort by a nonprofit organization entirely funded by donations.

At the Farm Show, 4-H also will be raising money for a food bank in Harrisburg in an effort called Collecting Change for Hunger. "We will have big containers into which visitors can drop coins and bills," said Paletta. "We will collect the money during the show and donate it at the end of the week to the food bank."

Penn State plays important role

Each year, more than 150 faculty, county extension educators and staff from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences participate in the Farm Show as committee chairs and members, exhibit personnel, publicity staff and judging coordinators for competitions from beef cattle and poultry to maple products and mushrooms.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in America, with 24 acres under roof, spread throughout 11 buildings including three arenas. Farm show officials expect more than 400,000 spectators, some 8,000 animals, 13,000 competitive exhibits and nearly 300 commercial exhibitors at the eight-day event. More than $465,000 in premiums will be offered to competitive exhibitors.

The show is held at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, at the corner of Cameron and Maclay streets in Harrisburg, just off exit 67 of Interstate 81. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 8-14 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 15. Admission is free, and parking is $10. For more information, visit the Farm Show website at http://www.farmshow.state.pa.us.

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Last Updated March 21, 2011