Like always, 2012 Ag Progress Days has something for everyone

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When it opens Aug. 14 for its 44th year, Penn State's Ag Progress Days will once again show the many faces of agriculture, bringing together people with a wide range of perspectives on the production of food, fuel and fiber.

Bob Oberheim, Ag Progress Days manager, noted that the purpose of the three-day event is many-fold.

"It allows the College of Agricultural Sciences to highlight for the public and producers the land-grant research and cutting-edge technologies that drive our food system," he said. "Also, consumers can learn more about how their food is produced and get information on health and nutrition, home gardening and other topics that can help improve their daily lives.

"In addition, commercial exhibitors can interact with the agricultural audience and showcase their equipment and services."

Around the grounds, college specialists, government and industry representatives and more than 450 exhibitors will be on hand to show attendees the latest technology and answer questions about crop production, animal science, equine care, water quality, forest resources, food safety, farm safety, and a wealth of other topics, Oberheim said.

This year's expo will feature several new or special attractions:

--The Renewable Energy Showcase, a series of presentations on energy resources and conservation practices, will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 14, in the Learning Center Tent at Main and East 9th streets. Short, informative presentations by industry experts and Penn State Extension energy specialists, the topics will focus on conservation, solar and wind energy, and biogas and biomass energy.

--The Crops and Soils Tent is gone this year, replaced by a Crops, Soils and Conservation Building. The new Joseph D. Harrington Building will serve as home to exhibits and activities highlighting conservation and crop management. In and around the new building, 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, and organic farming.

--The focal point at the 4-H Youth Building is the 4-H robotics program. The building will showcase several robots, including one that shoots basketballs.

--A pollinator garden has been planted at the Lawn and Garden Area to show plants that support native beneficial insects. A tour will be offered on Tuesday and Wednesday. Handicapped-accessible raised beds also will be on display, helping visitors to appreciate the various methods that can be used to create raised beds.

--College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building will feature the science of reproduction, using animals as a guide. At this hands-on exhibit, visitors will be able to isolate DNA and learn how meiosis -- the type of cell division by which germ eggs and sperm are produced -- generates animal variation. Theatre presentations will cover stink-bug infestations, strategies for longevity in the dairy business, immunization protocols and how to make them more effective for livestock, protecting water supplies from natural-gas drilling, and on-farm animal composting, among others.

--Mini golf, an old standby in the Family Room, will have a new focus and name: Man v. Rodent. The theme highlights new Environmental Protection Agency rodenticide regulations aimed at keeping children, pets and wildlife safer. When visitors come to play golf at the three holes, they will learn the importance of eliminating rodents, methods for controlling rodent pests through integrated pest management, and safety with rodent bait.

Popular features returning to Ag Progress Days include:

--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 will be available to answer questions and provide information to help prospective students see what they can do with an agricultural education.

--Marcellus Shale Center. Talk with Penn State specialists 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.

--Research and Conservation Tours. Free bus and walking tours of the 2,000-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 1-acre corn maze. Shavers' Creek Environmental Center will offer demonstrations with live wildlife.

--Machinery and equipment demonstrations. A new field demonstration this year will feature a blast sprayer demonstration in the Farm Safety Demonstration Area. This sprayer is used in orchards, as well as in vegetable and small fruit production, with the spray material dispersed by a large fan. New 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, also will be on display.

--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.

--Farm safety demonstrations. Specialists will demonstrate ATV safety on a special course and conduct farm accident rescue simulations involving agricultural equipment, including a demonstration of emergency scene stabilization and patient-extrication techniques.

--Pasto Agricultural Museum. The recently enlarged and renovated Pasto Agricultural Museum will provide visitors with a glimpse into farming's past. Haymaking demonstrations will be presented during this year's event. With an intriguing collection of artifacts, the museum offers exhibits highlighting the history of agriculture and rural life during the "muscle-power era.".

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, Pa., on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 14; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 15; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 16. Admission and parking are free.

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

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Last Updated September 27, 2012