Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association


Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association

An Association of Commercial Vegetable, Potato and Berry Growers

PVGA Annual Award Recipient 2016 – Boots Hetherington

Blair, Katie, Boots, Robin and Morgan Hetherington

Recipient Boots Hetherington with his family Blair, Katie, Robin and Morgan (L to R)

Barron “Boots” Hetherington served as a Director of the Association for 24 years from 1982 to 2012 including two years as President from 2000 to 2001 and has been involved in many other agricultural leadership positions through the years.

He is co-owner with his wife Robin of B & R Farms in the northwestern corner of Schuylkill County known as the Ringtown Valley. His daughters Katie, Morgan, and Blair represent the seventh consecutive generation to live in the Hetherington homestead. The Hetherington’s farm 400 acres of grain, hay, vegetables, and small fruit. They are best known for their “Pick-Your-Own” strawberry patch. They also operate a retail greenhouse selling hanging baskets and annual flowers.

Boots graduated from Penn State in 1975 with a degree in engineering. After a six year career in manufacturing management in the Charmin Paper Division of Procter and Gamble, Boots returned to his roots of full time farming.

Throughout his career in production agriculture, Boots has severed in many leadership roles. He is a member and past chairperson of the Schuylkill County Conservation District board.He served as a member of the Penn State University Board of Trustees and a board member of the Pennsylvania Master Farmers Association. Boots served as the chairperson of the Pennsylvania State Committee for the USDA Farm Service Agency during the Bush Administration. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Briar Creek Mutual Insurance and is an active member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

On the local level, Boots serves Union Township as an auditor and member of the Union Township Ag Security Area Board. He is a member of the trustee board and adult choir of Aurrand United Methodist Church in Ringtown.

Boots received the Pennsylvania Master Farmer Award in 1996 and the Penn State Schuylkill Campus Outstanding Alumni Award in 2008. The Hetherington’s own the first preserved farm in Schuylkill County. In 2008 they received national recognition by Successful Farming Magazine for completely restoring their bank barn built in 1860.

In 2011, Boots was named Special Advisor in Agriculture to Governor Tom Corbett.  He served the Administration for 4 years as the Fair Fund Administrator where he monitored and allocated $3 million to 109 ag fairs, 67 county 4-H’s, 37 FFA’s and 11 Statewide Ag Organizations.

Boots coordinated the Outstanding Fair Ambassador Award Program with the Secretary’s office and press office.  More than 80 Awards were presented each fair season to recognize the tireless contributions of volunteers for the industry.  He visited over 90 fairs annually and wore out two government cars and one hip.

Boots made personal visits to vegetable and fruit producers to recruit new PA Preferred program members and distribute promotional material to current program members. He signed up 71 new program participants. He worked with the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program (PVMRP) Board, the PDA Legal Office, and the PDA Bureau of Market Development to include a PA Preferred program application as part of PVMRB’s annual assessment form mailing. 193 new growers enrolled in the PA Preferred program in 2014 as a result of this effort.

Boots designed and implemented a fair competition for local fairs to identify and display PA Preferred products in a themed setting. Fairs are invited to recreate their display at the PA Farm Show. The competition uses our ag fairs to help familiarize consumers with local PA producers and their products.

He coordinated a Farm Show Commodity Food Court proposal to allow the PA FFA Foundation to prepare and sell an all PA Preferred ingredient pizza as a fund raising vehicle for the Foundation. The project included finding in-state manufacturers of pizza sauce, shredded cheese, pizza shells, and pepperoni and then certifying the manufacturers as PA Preferred processing companies. The FFA Foundation has received more than $15,000 annually from their Farm Show food booth since the project began at the 2012 PA Farm Show.

Boots used his vegetable production knowledge to serve as an advisor to the Cumberland Valley FFA Chapter for their food bank project. Three acres of surplus farmland owned by the school district were used to produce fresh produce for the Central PA Food Bank in Mechanicsburg and the local Project Share Food Bank. He obtained sponsors for seeds, seed potatoes, vegetable transplants, fertilizer, and crop protection chemicals, as well as a local vegetable grower to provide specialty equipment to plant, spray, and harvest crops. Consulting included design and installation of a drip irrigation system along with weekly scouting and timing for applications of crop protection materials. A total of 4,650 lbs. of potatoes, 1,600 lb. of tomatoes, and 500 lbs. of peppers were donated to the food banks. In addition more than 2,400 dozen of sweet corn was sold locally by the FFA Chapter to cover expenses for irrigation, containers, and other supplies. An additional 600 lbs. of potatoes were donated to the Cumberland Valley High School cafeteria as a thank you to the school board and district maintenance staff for their support of and assistance with the project.

Boots has been a faithful worker at PVGA’s Food Booth for 30+ years.  He only missed in 1992 because Robin demanded he stay home for the birth of his daughter, Morgan.  He is the Strawberry Surprise Czar and usually comes home with red stains on his sneakers and fried vegetable batter in his pockets.  He enjoys the interaction with other growers and quality time with the public.

With the change in administrations, Boots transitioned back to the home farm in early 2015 to once again be a full time farmer and advocate for agriculture.