The PVGA Board of Directors held their “fall” meeting on Tuesday, December 12, at the Ramada Inn in State College. This meeting is preceded by meetings of the various PVGA committees which make recommendations to the Board for the Association’s activities for the coming year.
The committee meetings were all held virtually in the weeks before Board meeting. While in-person meetings have an advantage in allowing personal interaction, the virtual meetings do make it much more convenient for committee members to participate in the relatively brief meetings. One of the main goals of the system of committees is to involve non-Board members in reviewing the past year’s activities and discussing the direction of the Association in the coming year. The committees that meet prior to the meeting are the Executive, Leadership and Recognition, Administrative, Educational, Government Affairs, Farm Show Booth, Potato, Berry, Simply Sweet Onion, Vegetable Research and Vegetable Marketing. All the Committees except the Executive Committee involve one or more non-Board members. Members who would be interested in participating in a committee should contact the Association at 717-973-5915 or email@example.com.
Dr. Blair Seigfried, Associate Dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences; Dr. Beth Gugino, Assistant Dean; Mary Wirth, Director of College Relations; and Dr. Erin Connolly, Plant Science Department Head all attended part or all of the meeting. They reported on various initiatives within the College related to research and extension. A College research strategic plan is being developed with agricultural technology/robotics, climate-smart/regenerative agriculture systems and food safety being some of the focuses of that plan. A new research greenhouse complex on the University Park campus is being considered. They also noted that the filling of several extension positions important to the vegetable industry in Columbia, Franklin and Philadelphia Counties has been paused at least temporarily.
The Association’s financial reports showed that income should exceed the expenses for the year. The 2023 budget included a $3,900 deficit but the Association may end the year with more than a $10,000 surplus. As of November 30, the General Fund balance value was $253,545, the Keystone Fund balance value was $224,645 and the Simply Sweet Onion Committee balance was $17,484. The Board received reports from a review of the financial records from 2019, 2020 and 2021 which found them to be in line with balances reported previously.
Because there was uncertainty over the Association’s ability to request research donations, the Board voted to not include that in the membership letters this year. They also voted to ask the members to amend the Articles of Incorporation to the original language used prior to the amendments made in 2019.
The Leadership and Recognition Committee announced that the nominees for the five Director positions up for election by the members will be six of the incumbent Directors: Brian Campbell, Peter Flynn, Arthur King, Amy Metrick, Michael Orzolek and Mark Troyer plus Morgan Bond. The Committee also made recommendations for the Annual Award, Life Memberships and Distinguished Service Awards which will be announced at the Mid-Atlantic Convention. Nominees for various other awards were also reported.
The Scholarship Committee reported they planned to award $6,000 in scholarships to four applicants.
The Administrative Committee presented a draft budget for 2024 which included $25,000 for “start-up” funds for a small fruit extension position and $55,000 for vegetable research plus funding for setting up a subsidiary charitable foundation and for a five-year strategic planning session. With a project income of $548,900 and projected expenses of $592,950, the draft budget projects a deficit of $44,050 for 2024 which would put the projected year-end balance at $217,000. The Board voted to annually increase the target year-end reserve balance by the current rate of inflation rather than just 2% as was done previously. That will make the target year-end balance $198,000 so that even with the projected deficit the target year-end balance would be easily exceeded to provide adequate financial reserves.
Membership for 2023 was reported at 830 compared to 862 in 2022 and 793 in 2021. Last year the Association offered persons who had never been Association members a “Buy One Get One” free deal where they would receive a second year’s membership if they joined for the first time in 2023. Eighty-nine people qualified for this offer. The Board decided to evaluate this offer after the third year to see how many of these new members renew their membership in 2025. Finally the Committee recommended the following donations/sponsorships and promotions for 2023:
- Farm Show Reception Sponsorship $500
- Ag In The Classroom Program $500
- Ag Science Education Mobile Lab $500
- Capitol Hunger Garden $200
- Delaware Valley College A-Day Program Ad * $125
- Ag Progress Days Booth $550
- Farm-City Day Vegetables * +$50
- Farm Show Vegetable Day Cooking Demonstrations $1,225
- Pasa Conference Program Advertisement $450
- Keystone Cornucopia Reception $200
- Ag Council Research Tour for Legislators * $100
- Farm Show Livestock Sale +$100
- Farm Show Bus Transportation * +$300
- Farm Show Food Court Table Cleaning * +$600
- Farm Show Visitor’s Guide Advertisement $700
- Banquet Sponsorship $500
- Ice Cream Social $800 to $1,100
- * items were approved by not actually expended in 2023
The Farm Show Food Booth Committee is preparing for the 2024 Farm Show and working to recruit enough volunteers.
The Educational Committee recommended maintaining the budget for educational meeting grants for Penn State Extension sponsored meetings but also continuing to organize a series of PVGA on-farm grower meetings around the state. This year the Association helped sponsor a meeting at the Snyder Co. Produce Auction in January and organized twilight meetings Shenot Farm and Market in Allegheny County, Bridgeside Farms in Franklin County, Burger’s Farm Market in Luzerne County and Strite’s Orchard in Dauphin County. The Association also will continue to help sponsor the “Are You Crazy?” Farm Market Tour. The Committee recommended offering members the opportunity to receive the newsletter digitally and also creating a place on the website for classified ads.
The Government Affairs Committee recommended that the Association maintain its membership in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Alliance and the International Fresh Produce Association. They also recommended 10 additions and 2 deletions to the Association’s Policy Resolutions. They are outlined in the separate article on the Annual Meeting where the resolutions will be considered by the members.
The Board adopted the following legislative priorities for 2024:
- Elimination of unemployment compensation fees for H-2A workers.
- Adequate agricultural research and extension funding.
- Relaxed stormwater management requirement for high tunnels.
- Reduction of stormwater fees for farmland.
- Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program funding.
- Coordination of the state Business Depreciation Deduction Limit with the federal limit.
- Immigration and farm labor reform including the replacement of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate system.
- Reform of the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System regulations.
- Reasonable water-use Food Safety Modernization Act rules for small growers.
- Continued Specialty Crop funding.
- Adequate agricultural research and extension funding.
- Continued nutrition program funding.
- Reasonable cost healthcare options for the self-employed and small employers.
- Inheritance tax elimination.
- An increase in the Business Depreciation Deduction Limit to at least $1,000,000.
The Board also received reports from the Vegetable Promotion, Vegetable Research, Potato, Berry, Simply Sweet Onion and Penn State Liaison Committees. The Berry Committee is planning to continue their virtual monthly Berry Grower Exchange meetings and also to hold an on-farm twilight meeting.
The Board’s next meeting will be January 29, 2024, in Hershey prior to the Mid-Atlantic Convention.