The PVGA Board of Directors held their “fall” meeting on Tuesday, December 6, at Toftrees Resort 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.
For several years these committee meetings were held in-person the day before the Director’s meeting but like the last two years, this year the committee meetings were all held virtually in the two weeks before Board meeting. In 2021 they were held virtually due to concerns about the pandemic, but this year and last year the Board decided to hold the committee meetings virtually simply to save money. Since the Association pays the mileage for the Committee members and the two-day format requires the Board members to stay overnight in State College. It becomes a considerable expense for the Association.
While in-person meetings always an advantage in personl interaction, the virtual meetings do make it much more convenient for committee members who are not Board members to participate in the 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 and Berry. The Simply Sweet Onion, Vegetable Research and Vegetable Marketing also met earlier in November. 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 717-694-3596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Richard Roush, Dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, attended part of the meeting. He shared that the increase in state funding for agricultural research and extension this year was a major plus for the College, enabling it to regain some ground lost to previous budget cuts and several years of level funding that resulted in staff cuts. Dr. Gary Felton, head of the Department of Entomology also attended the meeting and announced that applications will soon be reviewed for the vegetable entomology position formerly held by Dr. Shelby Fleischer, who retired early this year. Filling the vegetable entomology position was a priority for PVGA. The Dean also mentioned that the College is seeking to fill the potato research position currently filled by Michael Peck, who is retiring. The PVGA Potato Committee discussed this situation at great length at their committee meeting prior to the Board meeting, as this position is critical to maintaining a potato research program for Pennsylvania. Mary Wirth, director of college relations and communication attended the meeting as well.
The Association’s financial reports showed that income should exceed the budget and expenses are projected to be lower than expected for the year. The 2022 budget included a $47,000 deficit but the Association may end the year with more than a $25,000 surplus. As of November 30, the General Fund balance value was $213,570, the Keystone Fund balance value was $207,413 and the Simply Sweet Onion Committee balance was $17,144.
The Board reviewed the contract offer the Executive Committee was putting forth for a candidate for the Executive Director. The Executive Committee had met with the candidate the date before the meeting. Since the candidate was not able to attend the Board meeting, a virtual meeting will be scheduled later with the candidate.
The Leadership and Recognition Committee announced that the nominees for the five Director positions up for election by the members will be five of the incumbent Directors: Christopher Harner, Rita Resick, John Shenk, Jeffrey Stoltzfus, and Joel Weaver plus James Reiff and Robert Erlemeier. The Committee also made recommendations for the Annual Award and Life Memberships which will be announced at the Mid-Atlantic Convention. Nominees for various other awards were also reported. The Board discussed different ways to increase the diversity of the Board membership in terms of ethnic groups and geographic areas – particularly urban agriculture representatives. There was discussion about urging PVGA members to consider giving a membership to a neighboring grower who is not a member. It would really be a two-year membership if the new member had never been a member because the Association just started offering a “buy-one-get-one-free” membership offer to growers who had never been members before.
The Scholarship Committee announced they are considering scholarship applications from seven applicants. They will be awarding up to $4,400 in scholarships.
The Administrative Committee presented a draft budget for 2023 which again included $10,000 for “start-up” funds for the extension entomologist position. While it is hoped that income from the Farm Show Booth and the Mid-Atlantic Convention will increase in 2023, using conservative figures and allowing for paying both a new Executive Director and at a reduced rate the retiring Executive Director during the period of transition, the draft budget projects a deficit of $49,900 for 2023.
Membership for 2022 was reported at 862 compared to 793 in 2021 and 983 in 2020. To engage more members and growers particularly among the plain community, the Administrative Committee recommended hosting several breakfast meetings in the late winter/early spring at different locations around the state. They also recommended having a booth at the Pasa Conference and at Ag Progress Days. The Committee is also recommending moving some funds to different accounts as interest rates and the economy change. 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 $1,650
– Pasa Conference Compact Booth $500
– Pasa Conference Program Advertisement $250
– Farm Show Public Officials Day $500
– 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 $875
– Banquet Sponsorship $500
– Ice Cream Social $800 to $1,100
The Farm Show Food Booth Committee is preparing for the 2023 Farm Show. Veggie burgers will be added to the menu. Some prices will be increased to account for increased expenses.
The Educational Committee recommended increasing the budget for educational meeting grants for Penn State Extension sponsored meetings but also organizing a series of PVGA on-farm grower meetings around the state. This year the Association helped sponsor Extension meetings at the Snyder Co. Produce Auction in January, a summer twilight meeting at the Carl Wenger farm in Port Trevorton, an At-Market Twilight at Crooked Row Farm Market in Orefield and a Cut Flower Twilight Meeting at the Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Manheim, The Association will continue to offer transportation assistance to groups of growers from the plain community and also remind high school agriculture teachers that students are admitted to the Convention at no cost.
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 19 additions 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 2023:
– 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.
– Increased broadband internet access in rural areas.
– Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program funding.
– Coordination of the state Business Depreciation Deduction Limit with the federal limit.
– Immigration and farm labor reform.
– Reform of the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System regulations.
– Reasonable water use and produce traceability 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 30, 2023, in Hershey prior to the Mid-Atlantic Convention.