HENDERSON TOWNSHIP – Don Tanner, Director for Penn State Cooperative Extension District 3, which encompasses Jefferson, Cameron, Elk, McKean and Potter Counties, set the tone for an annual event by saying, “Agriculture is diverse, it’s diverse in Jefferson County, it affects everything.”
The yearly assembly, hosted by the Jefferson County Farm Bureau, is designed to bring elected officials at the federal, state, and county levels in personal contact with farmers and others involved in Pennsylvania’s number one Industry of agriculture.
This year’s tour brought the gathering to Henderson Township where Rick and Kathy Wise reside on farmland established in 1837. Rick and his siblings were raised on the rolling lands which stretch for hundreds of acres across the landscape.
Tanner’s opening comments continued, “Agriculture impacts the dynamics of the economy, people, and the marketplace”
He explained that Penn State and its research are there to help farmers and youth interested in farming not just with operations, or a food stand, but with an understanding of the overall affect of agriculture.
Rick Wise welcomed the attendees saying, “We are honored that we were asked to host this event.” He referred to the five head of Angus cows his Dad bought in the 1920’s which have grown in number to 210 Angus cows at present.
The Wises’ are involved in the “club calf” aspect of agriculture where about one-third of their annual sales are of calves purchased by youthful entrepreneurs learning to select, finance, care for, manage, and eventually sell the animal. Both of their sons grew up in the 4-H programs for which Rick served as a teacher for over thirty years.
He spoke of the efforts they make from the time the calves are birthed to ensure that each animal is properly cared for medically, physically and introduced to handling by humans and the interactions necessary for a successful outcome.
Agricultural interests do not all take place in a rural setting. Rick noted that he had been sent to Washington, D.C. at one time to lobby for 4-H at the federal level.
Interaction with legislators at all levels of government is crucial to the broad picture of agriculture on the local, state, national and international stages.
Farming also involves a lot of “behind-the-scene” work with computers and other electronic media. Rick commented that his now-adult sons are much better at that aspect of the operations than is he.
Data must be kept on all the animals from their breeding lineage to their weight, food, medical care, and much more. This permits exchanging information with other herd owners to properly oversee prospective interaction of animals.
Other details of the farming operation are monitored such as tracking the amount of time a particular grain is grown in one area and when it should be completely replanted or rotated.
Spread across the Wise Farm is space for 130 acres of corn, 80 acres of wheat grown for pretzel flour, 80 acres of soybeans and between 400 and 500 acres of hay. “Young cattle get grain, cows are all grass fed,” Rick explained.
Besides caring for their stock, crops and equipment, the Wises meticulously maintain their home, several barns and outbuildings, provide a number of bird houses for Purple Martins, and manage paddocks and rotational grazing areas..
Techniques for planting and harvesting crops have changed over the years. Today’s modern tractors and baling equipment enable hay production with less manpower than previously. “It’s hard to find people to work these days,” said Rick of the shortage of laborers.
For example, one large round bale of hay, rolled at one per minute and lifted with machinery, weighs about 1,400 pounds whereas the traditional small, rectangular bales, gathered and stored in barns by hand and wagon, weigh only about 40 pounds. The time savings alone are significant.
Other topics discussed were the national concern about the population of bees, spontaneous combustion in hay, nutrient management of animal waste and the potentially devastating effect of the Environmental Protection Agency’s assertion to take over every drop of water in the United States.
Among those attending the event were: Peter Winkler, aide to Congressman Glenn Thompson; Matt Blackburn, aide to Senator Pat Toomey; PA State Representative Cris Dush; Mark Adams on behalf of State Senator and President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati; Jefferson County Commissioners Jack Matson, Herb Bullers and Jeff Pisarcik; other Jefferson County officials: Treasurer Jim “Moon” VanSteenberg; Register & Recorder Diane Kiehl who is also a Farm Bureau Director and Dan Park, President of the Farm Bureau.