Secretary of Agriculture Celebrates Agricultural Heritage, Commitment to Strong, Sustainable Future

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined agriculture educators and students to celebrate Pennsylvania’s rich, agricultural heritage and promising future at the 150-year old Hess Farm in State College. With more than 13 million Pennsylvanians and countless others around the world relying on Pennsylvania agriculture for food, fuel and fiber and more than 590,000 jobs tied to the industry, the state is set to invest more than $106 million this year in programs that secure a strong future for the industry.

“Pennsylvania’s history is rooted in agriculture. From the earliest chapters written by
Pennsylvania’s first settlers who came together and worked each other’s fields – building lives for themselves and feeding their communities – to the pages we write today,” said Redding. “Our actions today will write the next chapters. From the Farm Vitality Grant Program to investments in science and research, the Wolf Administration has committed more than $106 million this year to ensuring food will continue to fuel Pennsylvania for generations to come.”

The Hess Farm, which holds farmstead status with the National Historic Register, is the third stop on Redding’s Food Fuels PA tour. Jeff and Cindy Harding, who own the farm now, look to continue that tradition by transitioning the farm to their children with support from a $7,500 Pennsylvania Farm Bill Farm Vitality Grant.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bill, signed into law in 2019 and a result of an in-depth economic
impact report and industry analysis, is full of programs designed to support the strength of the industry and a bright future. It includes programs such as:

• The $1 million Farm Vitality Grant Program: a program aimed an enhancing the longterm vitality of Pennsylvania’s farms through sound business planning, efficient
transitions of farm ownership, strategic farm expansion and diversification.
• The $500,000 Farm to School Grant Program: a program created to improve childhood
access to health, local foods and increase agriculture education opportunities for prekindergarten through fifth grade.
• The $500,000 Ag and Youth Grant Program: a program designed explicitly to address
the looming workforce deficit the industry faces by funding ag education projects,
programs, and equipment.
• A Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program, with up to $6 million in credits available
annually, for owners of agricultural assets who sell or rent their assets to beginning
• The Agricultural Business Development Center, funded at $1 million, to support farm
transitions, beginning farmers, risk management, and provide other opportunities for
financial assistance.

Whether children grow up on a farm like the five Harding family kids — who all now work in
various sectors of agriculture — or not, all children should be given equal opportunities to
experience the value and diversity of Pennsylvania agriculture and take advantage of the
multitude of meaningful career paths available.

“Growing up, I was lucky enough to gain hands-on agriculture education from living on a farm as well as my time in 4-H,” said 4-H state council member Isabel Poorbaugh. “Through the experiences and knowledge I gained then, I grew an immense appreciation for the agricultural products I use every day as well as the hard-working hands that have produced them.”

With the future of Pennsylvania agriculture relying on today’s children being given opportunities to experience it, in 2018 Wolf established the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence to develop a statewide plan to improve agriculture education opportunities and programming in the commonwealth. The commission works with an annual budget of $250,000 to achieve goals and objectives laid out in their annual work plan.