At the PVGA Annual Meeting on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, Past President Brian Campbell announced that Christopher Harner, Rita Resick, John Shenk, Jeffrey Stoltzfus, and Joel Weaver had been re-elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors by the members of the Association in the mail-in balloting. After the Annual Meeting, the Board elected James Reiff of Leola to his first three-year term on the Board.
After the Annual Meeting, the Board also re-elected Rita Resick as PVGA President. She is the first woman to be serve as President of PVGA. Also re-elected were Peter Flynn as First Vice President, Tina Forry as Second Vice President and William Reynolds as Secretary-Treasurer. Brian Campbell continues as Past President. The officers are elected to one-year terms by the Board of Directors. The President and Vice Presidents traditionally are elected to their positions for two one-year terms before moving up to the next highest office so that the person elected as Second Vice President begins an eight-year cycle of serving in the four executive offices.
Following are brief biographies of the newly elected Directors:
Christopher Harner from Harner Farm ia a 3rd generation fruit and vegetable grower from Centre County. He has been working on the farm his whole life, and full time since graduating from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in Ag Business Management in 1994. Currently the farm is composed of a mix of about 20 acres of tree fruit, 20 acres of vegetables, and the rest is a mix of Christmas trees, blueberries, grapes, greenhouses, high-tunnels, corn maze etc. They have their own retail location, wholesale to local restaurants, auctions, school districts, grocery stores and other farms. They have been making the transition to pick-your-own over the years to provide on-the-farm activities for the community. Currently he is a member of PVGA, SHAP, Appalachian Fruit Growers (President) and Pa Farm Bureau. Chris has served as a PVGA Director since 2014.
James Reiff has been farming produce for over 10 years on his home farm in Leola. Although James has grown pumpkins, tomatoes, cantaloupes, and watermelons, his current operation involves an acre of greenhouse tomatoes and three acres of a line of large gourds that he has developed. He has also started a wholesale citrus marketing business. In his free-time he volunteers with Mennonite Disaster Service and serves on their Board. This is his first term on the PVGA Board.
Rita Resick is one of the four owners of Laurel Vista Farms in Somerset County. Prior to 2021, Laurel Vista grew potatoes, green beans, sweet onions, and summer vegetables for sale to the fresh market through Pittsburgh region grocery stores and wholesale outlets under the label “Ken and Rick’s Wholesome Vegetables,” as well as grains and hay. Rita also developed a line of shelf stable jarred products made from Laurel Vista vegetables, which are available in stores, specialty shops, local community events, and online. With the pandemic came an increase in food insecurity, and Laurel Vista stepped up as a farm to work with the Somerset County Mobile Food Bank to focus on distribution of food to families in Somerset County that were impacted by it. That need still exists, and now Laurel Vista is the Food Bank’s partner in the mission of growing local food to be included in the work it does in food distribution. From Laurel Vista’s work in food insecurity, Rita was asked to be Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University where she advises students working on projects related to food insecurity and state level funding for it. In her past career, Rita was President of Farr Communications, Inc., owner and operator of an AM/FM radio station in Charleroi. Prior to that, she was the Chief Financial Officer of Medrad, Inc., a medical device manufacturer headquartered in Warrendale, now a part of Bayer HealthCare. In addition to her work at Laurel Vista Farms, Rita provides professional consulting services for sustainable agricultural initiatives in Southwestern Pennsylvania. She currently serves on the Board of Food 21 in Pittsburgh. She is a past director of the Foundation for California University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Mon Valley United Way, and Society for Contemporary Craft. Rita served on the PVGA Capacity Development Committee, on the Board of Directors since 2017 and as President beginning 2022. She and her husband Rick Stafford divide their time between their farm home in Somerset and their city home in Pittsburgh.
John Shenk credits the 4-H program for creating his interest in growing berries and vegetables at a young age. He did not grow up on a farm, but was able to get a start in farming by growing and direct marketing produce in Philadelphia. He and his wife Linda have farmed with their family for 45 years. Along the way, they began to concentrate on growing strawberries for pick-your-own and direct sales. More recently, the focus on strawberries led to developing a strawberry cultivator and beginning Hillside Cultivator Co. John has served as a PVGA Director since 2011.
Jeffrey Stoltzfus has been working as the Farm Food Safety educator for Penn State Extension in Lancaster County since 2016. Prior to that he spent 23 years as a farmer educator working for the Eastern Lancaster County School District working primarily with vegetable farmers in Eastern Lancaster County. He assisted farmers in starting an onion growing cooperative and worked with them in areas of production and food safety. He lives on a small farm where he and his family grow strawberries, pumpkins, and beef cattle. Jeff has served as PVGA Director since 2011 and was Second Vice President for one year.
Joel Weaver is the co-owner of his family’s fifth generation dairy farm located in Somerset County, which he operates with his brother, Mark Weaver. He has been growing and marketing sweet corn since the 1970’s. The farm also includes 140 acres of grains, hay, and beef cattle. In 2004, the dairy cows were sold and the farm added five acres of vegetables and 3,000 square feet of high tunnels, day-neutral strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. He markets vegetables, beef, and fruits through a home retail market and four tailgate retail markets in Somerset and Cambria County. Joel has been active member in the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau by lobbying and representing farmers from his area for over thirty-eight years. He became a PVGA Director in 2020.