John Esslinger (center) with PVGA President Brian Campbell (to his right) with his wife Eve (right) and son Daniel and daughter Mary (left)

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association periodically likes to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a longstanding record of service and dedication to either the vegetable, potato and/or berry growers of Pennsylvania or the Association with a Life Membership.  The Board of Directors voted to grant this honor to John Esslinger in recognition of his 40 years of commitment to growers and the agricultural community.  Brian Campbell, PVGA President, presented the Life Membership to Esslinger February 1 at the Fruit and Vegetable Growers Banquet at the 2022 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey.

John has been a trusted resource for fruit and vegetable growers in the Northeast and Central Pennsylvania regions. Through the years, John has worked with many farmers in the agriculture communities of Pennsylvania.  He was enthusiastic about his work, promoting the newest research and always looking for ways to be more effective. Along the way, he has gained friends, earned respect, and encountered a variety of unique pests such as jumping worms. John is known for turning any conversation into a lecture on composting or fertilizing.

John’s interest started as a teenager working as a field laborer for a vegetable farm in southern New Jersey. His passion grew through his engagement with farmers and in higher education. He completed his first degree at Lubbock Christian University in Texas. He loved Texas so much that he moved to Pennsylvania to work at the Columbia County Crop Improvement Association in 1982. Dedicated to agriculture in all aspects of life, he married a farmer’s daughter and settled in the great town of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where they still live. He strived to make his three children as enthusiastic about pulling weeds as he is, but he was unsuccessful.

John worked at Columbia County Crop Improvement Association until 1987, when he started at Furmano Foods as a field representative. He worked at Furmano Foods until March of 1995, when he began his role as an educator for Penn State Extension.  He later completed his Masters in Agriculture through Penn State University. John promoted optimal growth and success for his farmers, providing support when new diseases or pests arose. John is known for his knowledge and accessibility, and his passion for agriculture showed through his time and dedication to his farmers, including working closely with the plain sect growers in his area of the state.

In addition, he served for several years on the Board of Directors of the Association and has been a regular volunteer at the Farm Show booth and formerly at the Ag Progress Days booth.  He has been involved in helping to plan to the program here at the Mid-Atlantic Convention for many years and serves on the PVGA Administrative Committee.  He was also active in the County Agricultural Agents Association.

John is nearly a year into retirement and has yet to slow down. He spends his time reading seed magazines, tending his garden, and playing “Manny” for his two granddaughters, who can anticipate learning a lot about tomato varieties, pests, and blight in the future.