Agricultural 'Brigadoon' offers a wide assortment of activities for visitors

Almost Brigadoon-like, a small agricultural "city" is nearly ready to spring up amongst the fields at Rock Springs, along state Route 45, 9 miles southwest of State College. But unlike the fictional town that mysteriously appeared for just one day every 100 years, this gathering is an annual, three-day affair.

Penn State's Ag Progress Days, one of the East's largest agricultural expositions, will be held Aug. 18-20. The event provides visitors with about 150 acres of commercial and educational exhibits, crop displays, machinery demonstrations, family and youth activities, equine presentations, workshops and an agricultural museum. Guided research tours take visitors into the field in the surrounding, 2,200-acre Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center.

The expo typically attracts as many as 50,000 visitors -- an estimated 60 percent of whom are directly or indirectly involved in agricultural production -- from across Pennsylvania and beyond to get a glimpse into the science and business of agriculture. But, organizers say, you don't have to be a farmer to enjoy and learn from Ag Progress Days.

"Ag Progress Days provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about the many exciting advancements in agriculture and related fields to which our faculty and staff are contributing," said Richard Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. "This is your chance to get a firsthand look at some of the research, extension, and educational programs conducted by your land-grant university with the support of our partners, friends and stakeholders.

"We have a wide variety of attractions designed to appeal to virtually everyone, from commercial exhibits and field demonstrations highlighting the latest agricultural technology, to gardening advice, food demonstrations, horse exhibitions and kids' activities."

Ag Progress Days will feature activities designed to appeal to farmers, homeowners, gardeners, conservationists, woodlot owners, families, youth and others.

The Trade Show

Ag Progress Days offers farm operators the chance 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 -- all in a single trip.

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. A new demonstration in 2015 will spotlight equipment used in chopping corn for silage.

Youth Activities

Penn State's popular annual Great Insect Fair, for this year at least, will leave campus and be part of Ag Progress Days. Located in the Entomology Tent beside the 4-H Youth Building on West Eighth Street at the Ag Progress Days site, the fair will feature a different theme each day: Tuesday, Aug. 18 -- Bugs that Cause Diseases; Wednesday, Aug. 19 -- Insect Pollinators; Thursday, Aug. 20 -- Insect Friends and Foes of Agriculture.

Complementing the Insect Fair next door, the 4-H Youth Building also will host insects displayed by the well-known "Bugman," Ryan Bridge. Live displays will enable kids to learn about insects -- and even hold them in their hands. The 4-H Youth Building also will highlight the value of water in our diet and in agriculture, and other exhibits will include live animals, such as rabbits and chicks.

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; Shaver's Creek Environmental Center will showcase turtles, snakes, birds of prey and amphibians; a corn maze offers a fun way to learn facts about Pennsylvania agriculture; and kids can race around a track at the Pedal Go Kart Derby.

The Equine Experience

Horse owners and enthusiasts can enjoy a full schedule of training and breed clinics, demonstrations, informational displays and lectures. Breed exhibitions will range from miniature horses to powerful draft horses.

Other featured events will include drill-team performances, trick-riding exhibitions and horseback racing games. In addition, the Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Patrol will demonstrate crowd control using horses, and visitors can hear a series of presentations in the Equine Learning Center covering topics such as horse health, housing, saddle fitting, state regulations and equine liability.

Tours

Free, daily tours will allow visitors to see production and management practices being studied by Penn State researchers at the surrounding Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, and one tour will take visitors to Penn State's Deer Research Center near the University Park campus. Tour attendees are transported by bus, but most tours require some walking or standing.

Topics will include soybean and forage production, woodlot management, wildlife habitat, biofuel feedstocks, pasture management and grazing, breeding and restoration of the American chestnut tree, water quality and more.

Farm Safety and Health

Penn State safety experts will use a remote-controlled skid steer loader to demonstrate skid steer hazards and how to avoid them. Farm accident rescue simulations involving agricultural equipment, including demonstration of emergency scene stabilization and patient-extrication techniques, also will be held.

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

Crops, Soils and Conservation Area

Visitors can learn more about the benefits of cover crops, which can help farmers to reduce soil erosion, replenish soil nutrients and provide feedstocks for biofuel production. Exhibits also will showcase forage crops, no-till cropping, organic and sustainable agriculture, and nutrient management.

As part of a Penn State Extension project to study and remediate toxic algal blooms, pond owners can bring samples of algae for testing by trained water quality extension educators.

The J.D. Harrington Crops, Soils and Conservation Building will feature a wide variety of topics -- from crops and animals to forest management -- for visitors of any age. The building will house exhibits staffed by organizations related to soil and crop management, as well as aspects of conservation such as forestry, water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and wildlife. Information on composting, biofuels, watering systems, pollinator-friendly plants and deer-management strategies also will be available.

The Family Room

The Family Room building will feature a variety of hands-on exhibits and demonstrations on topics such as diabetes and diet, food and exercise for bone health, home food preservation, the importance of drinking water for proper health and nutrition, the safe use of pesticides at home, and Internet and firearm safety tips.

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. Children can play educational mini-games and take part in a "MyPlate" scavenger hunt.

Informative Presentations

A range of presentations will provide information and insights for a variety of attendees, whether they are agricultural producers, home gardeners, natural-gas lease holders or owners of small poultry flocks. Among other topics, sessions will cover energy conservation, shale energy development, on-farm renewable energy sources, dairy and poultry production, Farm Bill dairy provisions, robotic milking and on-farm animal composting.

Lawn and Garden Area

Penn State Extension Master Gardeners will be on hand to offer advice and information to manage home gardens, lawns and landscapes, and faculty and extension specialists from Penn State's Department of Entomology will field questions and identify insects brought by visitors. In addition, Penn State horticulture faculty will conduct flower-arranging demonstrations.

Strolling through the pollinator garden will allow attendees to see native, flowering plants that attract -- and help conserve -- threatened pollinators. Experts from the Pennsylvania State Beekeeper's Association and Penn State Extension will staff a demonstration beehive. Displays also will highlight backyard high-tunnel gardening and potato varieties and production.

Pasto Agricultural Museum

The 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.

Special exhibits will highlight "Wood, Iron and Steel -- Tools and Tool Making in Early Agriculture." Visitors can watch blacksmith demonstrations with traditional tools and methods, and representatives of the Centre County Historical Society and Centre Furnace Mansion will be on hand with a scale model of the Centre Furnace iron furnace. Also, "The Axe Whisperer," Jim Walizer, will share his passion for the history of timber, logging and forestry in Pennsylvania.

The museum will hold a silent auction Aug. 18-19, with more than 200 items available for bid or cash-and-carry purchase.

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. on Aug. 18; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 19; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 20. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays, and Facebook users can find the event at http://www.facebook.com/AgProgressDays.

Last Updated August 12, 2015