The PVGA Board of Directors voted unanimously at a special meeting on May 30, 2023, to contract with Wanner Associates of Harrisburg, to manage the Association and to authorize the Executive Committee to negotiate a final agreement with Wanner.  A contract was finalized on July 21 with Wanner beginning their services on September 1, 2023.  William Troxell, the current Executive Director, will continue in that role during a transition period until his retirement on December 15, 2023, when Tammy Linn of Wanner Associates will become the new Executive Director.

The selection of Wanner Associates concludes a search process that began over a year ago.  Wanner Associates has been in business since 1985. The firm provides management services to 19 other associations, including the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association and the Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.  In addition, they offer lobbying and government affairs advocacy services.  They have a team of 13 professionals to serve their clients.

While the Board originally planned for a much longer transition period before Troxell’s retirement, given Wanner’s experience in managing associations and transitions, the three and-a-half-month transition should be sufficient to ensure that PVGA services, publications and events continue seamlessly.  Troxell began as the Executive Secretary of the Association in December 1983, 40 years ago, while also working full-time on the farm of then PVGA President Dale Whitenight of Danville.  He succeeded William Christian who had served as PVGA’s first paid Executive Secretary from 1978 to 1983.  Previously the Association was managed by the volunteer officers with assistance from Penn State Extension personnel.  Troxell contracted with the Association as Troxell Administrative Services which included his wife Cheryl and paid assistant Trisha Hoffman.

Summer Directors Meeting

The PVGA Board of Directors held their regular summer meeting virtually on July 18 at 8:00 p.m.  Besides the report on the final contract negotiated with Wanner Associates, the Directors received reports from the officers and other committees.  The General Fund balance value was reported as $310,712 compared to $251,642 on July 17 last year – a reflection of healthy returns from the 2023 Farm Show Food Booth and the 2023 Mid-Atlantic Convention.  The Keystone Fund balance value was $221,474 compared to $200,410 last year.

Disappointingly, membership for 2023 was only 831 compared to 859 at last year’s summer meeting.  Several representatives from the Association met with the group that is organizing the Crop Growing Expo in Quarryville for January 2024.  PVGA will have a booth there to reach out to the large number of plain community growers that are expected to attend that event again this year.  Since a third or more of the vegetable growers in Pennsylvania belong to the plain community, the Board feels it is important to proactively promote both Association membership and the Mid-Atlantic Convention to those growers.

The Farm Show Food Booth committee is working on plans for the 2024 Farm Show with plans to drop dill pickles and veggie burgers from the menu because of poor sales/profitability.

The Board reviewed the preliminary program plans for the 2024 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention.  Special sessions on urban agriculture are planned for this year’s convention again.  A special outreach to urban agriculture growers is planned – hopefully bringing them to the Mid-Atlantic Convention for the first time and enabling them to see the benefit of returning in future years.  The Association applied for a state matching grant to help support the urban agriculture sessions including possible scholarships for growers to attend, to sponsor a recall readiness workshop for wholesale growers and to help the Association underwrite transportation assistance for members of the plain community.

The Association is planning a series of summer twilight meetings across the state including events at Shenot Farms in Wexford, Allegheny County; Hess/Bridgeside Farms in Waynesboro, Franklin County; and Burger’s Farm Market in Drums, Luzerne County.

In reviewing government affairs issues of concern to the Association, it was noted that expansion of broadband internet availability in rural areas had received funding so that hopefully there will be some progress there in the near future.  There is also some discussion of USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) classifying high tunnel in-ground production as field production thereby exempting such tunnels from storm water management requirements.  The Board voted to have the Association represented at the International Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference in September.

Director Mark Troyer, chair of the Potato Committee reported that demand for Pennsylvania potatoes is high this year.  The Potato Research Program approved $30,000 for potato research projects and is undertaking an amendment referendum to increase the rate of assessment.

The Berry Committee is continuing their monthly Berry Growers Exchange which is available virtually or by telephone.  The Berry Committee is also planning a berry oriented twilight meeting in September.

The Penn State Liaison Committee reported that the vacant vegetable extension educator positions in Columbia and Franklin counties are in the process of being filled.  Faculty member Dr. Robert Berghage is retiring and the position is being advertised to cover greenhouse and indoor production.  Dr. Brent Hales has resigned as Associate Dean for Extension to take a position at the University of California.  The horticulture extension team is planning a retreat to coordinate their efforts on behalf of growers.  The College of Agricultural Sciences recently purchased a 25,000 sq. ft. greenhouse complex near the main campus in State College to provide extra capacity for research purposes.  A feasibility study is also underway to replace the Plant Science research greenhouse complex on the University Park campus.

In New Business, the Board voted to enhance the Buyer’s Guide by including exhibitors from the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention and offering an Industry Membership class that would include a directory listing and regular membership benefits.  The Buyer’s Guide will also be posted on the Association’s website.  In addition, the Board voted to create a free Vegetable/Potato/Berry Classified ad section that will be posted on the website, the weekly PVGA Update email and the newsletter.  Free ads for used equipment and extra supplies will be available to members and non-members.