Variety provides the spice at Penn State's Ag Progress Days

August 11, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- If you've made the arguably easy decision to attend Penn State's Ag Progress Days, Aug. 16-18, now comes the hard part: deciding what to see and do when you get there.

The annual agricultural exposition -- one of the largest in the East -- provides visitors with about 150 acres of commercial and educational exhibits, crop displays, machinery demonstrations, family and youth activities, horse exhibitions, workshops and an agricultural museum. Guided research tours take visitors into the field in the surrounding, 2,400-acre Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center.

The expo 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. But, organizers say, you don't have to be a farmer to enjoy and learn from Ag Progress Days.

"We strive to make the event an enjoyable learning experience for everyone who comes, regardless of their interests and backgrounds," said Bob Oberheim, Ag Progress Days manager, who will retire this fall after 25 years of overseeing the show. "Although the majority of attendees have some connection to production agriculture, we offer activities for virtually everyone, including gardeners, food enthusiasts, conservationists, woodlot owners, educators, children and anyone interested in the agricultural and natural resource sciences."

College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building

This building will provide a focal point for a few key issues affecting Pennsylvania and how the college's research and extension programs are addressing them. The building, which also contains a theatre area for presentations, will showcase the college's programs related to agriculture, water quality and the Chesapeake Bay; small and "backyard" poultry flock health and management, including precautions against avian flu; the potential of biomass crops for renewable energy; and educational initiatives for private forest landowners.

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. A new demonstration in 2016 will spotlight pull-type and self-propelled sprayers.

Youth Activities

The 4-H Youth Building will house several interactive exhibits and activities. The well-known "Bugman," Ryan Bridge, will offer live displays that will enable kids to learn about insects. Children also can play with bunnies, work with fiber arts, discover the world of food science and view plant disease pathogens under a microscope. Displays also will highlight the importance of grains as part of a healthy diet and will feature information on what 4-H has to offer.

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, heavy-armor jousting and carriage racing. In addition, the Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Patrol will demonstrate crowd control using horses, and visitors can hear presentations and get information on topics such as animal-assisted therapy, equipment and facilities, horse health and nutrition, and stable management.


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. Tour attendees are transported by bus, but most tours require some walking or standing.

Topics will include precision agriculture, woodlot management, wildlife habitat, biofuel feedstocks, pasture management and grazing, breeding and restoration of the American chestnut tree, high-tunnel vegetable production, and more.

Farm Safety and Health

Penn State safety experts will use a remote-controlled tractor to demonstrate tractor rollover 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. Free vision tests, blood pressure readings and stroke assessments will be offered daily, and information will be available on personal protective equipment, dental hygiene and power take-off safety.

Crops, Soils and Conservation Area

In the J.D. Harrington Crops, Soils and Conservation Building, specialists from Penn State and other organizations will answer crop production, weed identification and biofuel questions. Visitors can ask questions about crop and nutrient management, no-till practices, organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

Penn State weed scientists and extension specialists also will provide information and advice about Palmer amaranth and waterhemp, two invasive weeds that are gaining a foothold in Pennsylvania and pose a serious threat to corn and soybean yields.

The 2016 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.

The Family Room

At the Family Room building, families and children can play mini-games, watch food demonstrations, taste healthy food and drink, participate in a scavenger hunt, and learn first aid and firearm safety tips. The Family Room will feature a variety of hands-on exhibits and demonstrations on topics such as diabetes and diet, home food preservation, the importance of drinking water for proper health and nutrition, and the safe use of pesticides at home.

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.

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 the College of Agricultural Sciences will field questions, identify insect and plant-disease samples brought by visitors, and 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 garlic and herb 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.

Wheat-threshing demonstrations on a Champion threshing machine outside the museum will bring the history of early small grains harvest to life, and representatives of the Centre County Historical Society and Centre Furnace Mansion will be on hand to share some of the early history of the region and the founding of Penn State. 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. 16-17, 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. 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.

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

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Last Updated August 11, 2016