KITTANNING – Armstrong County’s dairy farmers are worried about the future of their industry.
“We’re dwindling down,” local farmer Marlene Kammerdiener told Armstrong County Commissioners Pat Fabian, Jason Renshaw and George Skamai as they proclaimed June as National Dairy Month during their regular meeting on June 6.
Kammerdiener told the commissioners that she’s seen a number of dairy farms go out of business in the county in recent years, and knows of others who are also headed in that direction.
“I just feel so bad,” she said. “I know they’re scared of what they’re going to do for income. I worry about my fellow farmers.”
Those that aren’t closing, she noted, have reduced the size of their dairy cattle herds in recent years, while most have also put off buying new machinery to help with their operations.
“Everyone still thinks the grocery store is where you buy your food,” she said, urging everyone to buy locally produced milk and dairy products. “We need dairy and dairy farmers.”
Kammerdiener also touted the need to get whole milk back into school cafeterias, and said she has been promoting local dairy in schools for years.
“We need to eat local,” she said, noting that she is also working with some local schools to help cut down on the amount of food waste by encouraging the creation of “sharing” tables where students can place food they do not plan to eat, rather than throw it away.
The commissioners’ proclamation states that dairy farming is not only a way of life for many people, but that it is a “major industry in our nation and a significant contribution to the economy.”
“Dairy farmers work hard to provide your family with the same safe and wholesome dairy food they give to their children,” the proclamation states. “We can all be grateful for the significant contributions to our economy made by farmers and others who raise dairy cattle and market dairy products.”
Cindy Claypool, who operates a dairy farm with her husband, Jerry, told the commissioners that when all the local farms are gone, all products will come from big businesses.
“What’s left in Armstrong County?” she asked.
She also noted that more and more food items are being imported from other countries that don’t have the same level of farm regulations as are placed on American farms.
“We watch what we buy, we watch what we put into the ground,” she said of local farms.
In addition to the National Dairy Month proclamation, the commissioners also proclaimed June 1-9 as National Fishing and Boating Week.
The commissioners heard from Neil and Evelyn Andritz who operate a kayak and canoe outfitter along the Kiskimenetas River in the southern part of the county, as well as from Mary Ann Valasek of Arts on the Allegheny and a representative of Trout Unlimited.
Neil Andritz said that the rivers are a major component to tourism in Armstrong County.
“It’s the future of Armstrong County,” he said of the industry.
Valasek said that Arts on the Allegheny, now in its 12th year, brings more than 20,000 people into downtown Kittanning each summer with its concert series. This year, the shows feature The Commonheart on June 22 and Los Lobos on Aug. 31.
• The commissioners proclaimed June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Janet Talerico, director of the Armstrong County Area Agency on Aging, said that people should look for the signs of elder abuse, including bruises, weight loss, new people taking seniors to the bank, changes in routine and more. She said anonymous reports can be made to the county’s hotline at 1-800-732-6618 which is available 24 hours per day.
• Donations from the county’s Marcellus Legacy fund were approved in the amount of $500 for Trout Unlimited, $3,000 for the joint effort to bring the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Moving Wall to Kittanning, and $40,500 to purchase AED machines for each of the county’s 30 fire departments.
• The county entered into engineering agreements with Young & Associates in the amount of $34,300 for renovations to the heating and ventilation systems in the county courthouse and annex building; and with Senate Engineering in the amount of $25,040 for rehabilitation to the county’s parking lots.