April 15, 2023

In This Issue: 

Vote “Yes” in the Vegetable Referendum, Complete Your Ag Census, Sweet Corn Varieties, Hydroponic Leafy Greens, Labor Shortage, Penn State’s Sinclair Adam, NRCS Investing $75 in Organics, and more.

Vegetable Marketing and Research Program Undergoing Review Referendum Vote "Yes".

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program is currently undergoing a required five-year review referendum where growers have the opportunity to vote whether the Program should continue. Have you received your ballot and voted yet? Ballots must be mailed and postmarked by May 3, 2023.

Naturally, the Program Board and PVGA encourage you to vote "Yes" to continue the Program - see their letter to growers and quotes from other people in the industry here. You can also see the Program's 2022 Annual Report issue of Fresh Ideas here.

If you are a grower who grows one or more acres of vegetables in Pennsylvania for sale OR who grows 1,000 sq. ft or more of greenhouse or high tunnel vegetables for sale OR who grows and sells $2,000 worth of vegetables you are by law part of the Program and eligible to vote. If you do not receive assessment notices and Fresh Ideas from the Program in the mail, please see our introductory grower information here. If you have questions, contact the Program at 717-694-3596 or pvmrp@embarqmail.com.

If you have not received a ballot in the mail and would like to vote in the referendum (provided you meet the criteria for a grower outlined in the previous paragraph), please contact Holly Zarefoss at the Department of Agriculture as soon as possible - 717-783-8461 or hzarefoss@pa.gov. Remember, ballots must be mailed and postmarked by May 3, 2023.

The Vegetable Marketing and Research Program exists to serve Pennsylvania growers by promoting Pennsylvania vegetables and funding practical vegetable production research. Check out the reports from research sponsored by the Program since 2009 on the PA Veggies website here. Reports are just coming in from the 2022 projects.

The PA Veggies website offers vegetable recipes, how to prepare videos, informational blogs for consumers and grower/market directories. It also offers a wealth of grower resources - promotional information and graphics that you, as a grower, can use in your social media or printed promotional pieces. Consumers love checklists. Among other useful images, we've created "How To" lists like the one below for 14 popular summer crops. 

Remember, Vote "Yes" to continue the Program and these grower resources.

Your Response is Needed

The Census of Agriculture allows producers to tell the story of U.S. agriculture and it’s not too late to respond. Since data collection began last fall, over a million ag census recipients across the country have returned their questionnaires, but many have yet to respond. USDA will continue to collect completed 2022 ag census forms through the spring to ensure all producers have the chance the be represented in widely used census data. Producers can respond online at agcounts.usda.gov or by mail.


Census data inform decisions about policy, farm and conservation programs, infrastructure and rural development, research, education, and more. If you are a producer who has already submitted your 2022 Census of Agriculture, you may disregard any additional ag census letters and forms.

Please note - the Ag Census is especially important for vegetable, potato and berry growers. The Ag Census is the best data available for the acreages of these crops and its accuracy depends on your response as grower!

12 Must-Have Sweet Corn Varieties Growers Should Consider

This edition of Variety Specs highlights sweet corn varieties submitted to us from the nation’s leading seed breeders and distributors.

Traits highlighted include superior eating quality, excellent kernel contrast, good resistance packages, and high yields. See more here.

How This Leafy Greens Grower Is Taking Charge With Hydroponics

The drought of 1988, having covered much of the U.S., no doubt scared off more farmers than it spawned. Tyler Gogolek, then a teenager living in Northeast OH, saw it as a challenge — one with a Dust Bowl-sized caveat.

“That’s when I recall noting that I wanted to be a farmer,” he says. “However, I needed to control the weather.”

Thirty-five years later, Gogolek runs his own business and, in a sense, really does dictate the weather from inside a greenhouse. As the owner of Tyler’s Farm in Oberlin, OH, he and his family have been growing hydroponic lettuce and greens on a year-round basis since December 2014. See more here.

Greenhouse Grower Little Leaf Farms Puts Farming First: A Q&A with CEO Paul Sellew

Given the setbacks suffered by indoor ag in recent months — from bankruptcies, including vertical farmer Kalera in the U.S. and greenhouse grower Lakeside Produce in Canada to massive layoffs like those at Germany-based Infarm — controlled environment agriculture isn't quite the silver bullet that will feed the world some had hoped.

But CEA success stories remain. Consider greenhouse grower Little Leaf Farms, Devens, Mass., which says it’s on track for a banner year in 2023 — projecting it will break $100 million in sales by the end of the calendar year.

The brand says it recently rose to the No. 3 position in all packaged lettuce sales in the Northeast, inclusive of field-grown greens. Citing Nielsen data for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 25, 2023, Little Leaf Farms says it has maintained its leadership position in the CEA segment, with now nearly double the sales of the No. 2 CEA brand. See more here.

Labor Shortage Boosts H-2A Use

The labor situation facing specialty crop growers in the U.S. can be illustrated with a single number: 371,619. That’s the number of H-2A temporary visas certified by the federal government in fiscal year 2022, and according to Jason Resnick, the “meteoric” rise in field and orchard workers in the program tells the true story of how a shortage of laborers is affecting fruit and vegetable growers.


Resnick, the senior vice president and general counsel of Western Growers, said the sharp increase in H-2A requests that farmers filed and were granted by the Department of Labor — an increase of more than 300% in the last decade and a doubling over the last five years — shows the severity of an ag labor shortage in the U.S. Florida leads in the number of H-2A workers, but California (and Washington) is leading the growth spurt, with an increase of 17% last year, Resnick said. Western Growers serves fresh produce growers in California, Arizona and Colorado.

“The domestic workers that are here (in the U.S.), they don’t follow the crop, they’re not migratory. They typically followed the crop, but now they settle in communities and raise a family,” Resnick said. “And that domestic workforce is aging with an average age in the low- to mid-40s. The (average) H-2A worker is in their 20s.” See more here.

Sinclair Adam with Penn State Extension Passes Away

Sinclair Agnew Adam, Jr., 67 of Coatesville, PA died Sunday April 9, 2023, at Chester County Hospital in West Chester.

Sinclair began his career in horticulture at Waterloo Gardens in Exton, PA. He worked for the Brandywine Conservancy, and then Greenleaf Nurseries until 1989. That year he established Dunvegan Nursery, which he co-owned with Kirsten for 23 years. He was an Adjunct Professor at Temple University for 5 years. He loved to mentor the many students who passed through his door. He worked as a Floricultural Extension Educator at Penn State for 9 years where he was a Master Gardener Coordinator and Director of the PSU Flower Trials in Landisville. He helped plan the Greenhouse Ornamental sessions at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. See more here.

NRCS Invests $75 Million to Assist Producers Transitioning to Organic Production.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced details around its $75 million investment in conservation assistance for producers transitioning to organic production. As part of the multi-agency Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will dedicate financial and technical assistance to a new organic management standard and partner with new organic technical experts to increase staff capacity and expertise. 

The investment, which includes funds from the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), will help build new and better markets and income streams, strengthen local and regional food systems and increase affordable food supply for more Americans, while promoting climate-smart agriculture and ensuring equity for all producers. 

“Producers transitioning to organic can count on NRCS for assistance through the process,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “By strengthening our technical proficiency and providing technical and financial assistance through new tools and practices, we can better support producers through the challenges of organic transition.”  See more here.

Another Way to Apply for FFWR $600 Payments:

For farmworker employers in southcentral Pennsylvania, be aware that Pathstone in Aspers, PA & Chambersburg, PA are also distributing the $600 relief payments to farm workers! Pathstone has Visa cards in hand that will be distributed to the applicant at the time of application and funds will be loaded onto the cards within 5-7 days (after verification of documentation submitted). Pathstone has a 100% bilingual staff, and they are willing to come to you during breaks/lunches or whatever works for your company! If you need more information, please contact Mellisa Reyes at mreyes@pathstone.org to set up a time for them to assist you and your employees!

**IMPORTANT: if your employees have already applied on the PASA website, they should NOT apply again with Pathstone. It is a one-time payment, despite who distributes it.  

Preventative Maintenance for Your People: How to Reduce Turnover and Boost Morale

No news from your employees is good news, right? That approach might fit your leadership preference, but it’s an archaic way of leading your team, says Dave Mitchell, founder of Walla Walla, Wash.-based consulting firm The Leadership Difference

“I’m stunned at how little leadership interacts with their team members,” he says. “Leaders need to be more assertive in reaching out to the employees to make sure any frustrations are resolved before they fester and cause permanent damage.”

This concept is something Mitchell calls people preventative maintenance. Essentially it is a system to create continuous feedback from the employee to the employer. 

It can take several months for employees to be open to providing honest feedback. But over time, Mitchell says, team members will be more eager to participate and share. See more here.

New Development In Progress for Greenhouse-Grown Snacking Peppers

In partnership with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, researchers in the Virginia Tech University School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Food Science and Technology are developing snacking peppers suitable for growing in controlled agriculture environments.

Bingyu Zhao, a Professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and Yun Yin, an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, are the minds behind the process.

“Our work centers on making the plant compact and accelerating growth all while maintaining the color, scent, nutrition, and sweetness,” says Zhao, the principal investigator of the project and affiliated faculty member of the Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture. “The plants need to be able to grow in a crowded environment while maintaining high yield rates to ensure profitability.”

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences created the Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture to spearhead work on a changing agricultural landscape and to develop and evaluate needed modifications in agricultural production through informed scientific discovery and technology-driven innovation. This includes controlled environment agriculture. See more here.

Increased Demand Feeding New Growth Potential for Greenhouse Cucumbers

Bushel Boy Farms, headquartered in Owatonna, MN, with a second facility in Mason City, IA, is an experienced greenhouse tomato operation. However, the maturation of the tomato market has recently led the company to look for ways to diversify its crop mix. Starting this past year, Bushel Boy has expanded into greenhouse cucumbers at its Owatonna facility.

Greenhouse Grower recently reached out to Chuck Tryon, President of Bushel Boy Farms, to learn more about the changes the company had to make to accommodate cucumbers, the external forces shaping the cucumber market, and where he sees the market headed in the future. See more here.

Tips for Picking the Right Greenhouse Industry Suppliers

For the past couple of years, American Vegetable Grower has asked university professors and Extension agents a stark question. In our State of the Vegetable Industry Survey, we ask if a colleague retired or left and if the position was quietly shut down.

This year, a full third of respondents said yes. And that’s down from 43% who answered yes last year. It’s a devastating answer. Especially for greenhouse vegetable crops, which have few Extension agents dedicated to them.

This long-term trend has spurred suppliers to fill the void. Sales reps double as consultants willing to discuss issues beyond transactional sales. With that in mind, who you buy from matters well beyond product quality. You need solid advice and knowledge. So how do you sift through your choices to find the right partner? Here are a few questions to ask as you weigh who to buy from. See more here.

2 Ideas to Ensure Your Kids Succeed in Running the Farm

I’ve spent my career talking to owners of family businesses, and the topic of getting the next generation ready to take over comes up a lot. Among the businesses I’ve most admired, I’ve heard two particular techniques repeatedly.

Get the Kid Out of the Business for a While

By their nature, family businesses tend to be worlds unto themselves. Your parents taught you how to be a grower, and their parents before them did the same. There’s a strength in that. But also a danger.

Just as it’s a good idea to have friends who think differently than you to keep your thinking flexible, it’s a good idea to have new ideas brought into the farm and challenge the status quo. Your kids and nieces and nephews can help do that by spending a few years working for other farms.

Another benefit to exposing your kids to how other farms work is for them to stop being the boss’ son or daughter for a year or two. See more here.

Sales and Classified Ads

For Sale

Automatic Potato Weigher and Bagger - Paper and poly.

Call 610-996-1403 for more info. 12/31

Classified Ads and Sale Notices are are free for PVGA members. Email your information to us pvga@pvga.org.

Reminders and Coming Events

Clarifying Stormwater Regulations for High Tunnels

Friday, April 21, 2023 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. virtual

When it comes to stormwater management, do these temporary structures need to be regulated the same as permanent buildings? High tunnels are popping up across the landscape to help farms extend growing seasons, protect produce from an increasingly harsh climate, and provide a relatively inexpensive means of rotating crop locations.


In 2018, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a new law to clarify that these temporary structures should be regulated differently than permanent-based structures like greenhouses and barns. However, confusion still remains around the issue of stormwater management, and farmers in some Pennsylvania townships are being asked to meet costly, time-consuming requirements. 

Explore this issue with us during this lunchtime webinar. Bring your questions for our panel including a stormwater expert, legislative representative, and farmer. They’ll share their views and discuss what additional legislation may be needed to address the situation. See more here.

Two-Wheel Tractor Operation, Safety & Applications

Sunday, April 23, 2023 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Weaver's Way Farms - Henry Got Crops, 7095 Henry Avenue, Philadelphia

Get hands-on training with the BCS walk-behind tractor and learn how to integrate this equipment into your production plan. Join us at Weavers Way Farms’ Henry Got Crops site at W.B. Saul Agricultural High School in Philadelphia to learn about this versatile tool that supports many small-scale vegetable operations. 

Weavers Way farm manager Nina Berryman and farmer Dean Buttacavoli of Cabbage Throw Farm will discuss and demonstrate the uses, basic maintenance, and safe operation of a walk-behind tractor. We’ll review attachments as well as basic maintenance, and each participant will get an opportunity for supervised, hands-on practice. See more here

Understanding the Basics of Agricultural Conservation Easement Programs

Friday, April 28, 2023 12:00 pm via Zoom.

Agricultural conservation easement programs are a legal tool that has been used at the local, state, and federal levels to protect farmland and farming viability against development pressures. This webinar will provide an overview of, and background for, various state and federal agricultural conservation easement programs, including the recent consolidation of previous federal programs into one single program called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. The webinar will also address how land is identified, evaluated, and selected for easement programs as well as review the pros and cons of the various methods employed. See more here.

New York Company Seeking Local Pickle Source

Eddie’s Pickles (Eddie's Pickles | Heritage & Health | Since 1888 (eddiespickles.com)) is seeking a local supplier of cucumbers. They are based in NY. They are looking for Kirbies/pickling cucumbers all summer long (winter too if a producer has greenhouses). During the summer season they can use up to 60,000 lbs but can work with what you have. Size 2 A 2B and 3AL. Contact is Ralph (the owner) at Eddie’s Pickles: contact@eddiespickles.com.

The 2022 Census of Agriculture – There’s Still Time To Be Counted!

[Pennsylvania] farmers still have time to be counted in the 2022 Census of Agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Although the deadline for submitting the ag census has just passed, NASS will continue to accept completed census questionnaires through the spring to ensure all farmers and ranchers take advantage of the opportunity to be represented in the widely used data.

NASS will continue to follow up with producers throughout the spring with mailings, phone calls, and personal visits. Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to complete their ag census either online at agcounts.usda.gov or by mail as soon as possible.

This article for New Jersey farmers is equally applicable to Pennsylvania growers. The Census of Agriculture is especially important for vegetable, potato and berry growers. Our industry has no other way to measure the economic importance the vegetable, potato, and berry industry without the acreage and other information derived from the Ag Census. It may seem like a bother or invasion of your business information, but the aggregated information from the Ag Census is very helpful in showing legislators, university administrators and grant administrator the importance of our industries. If you have have not filled out your Ag Census form, please do so today.

PVGA Scholarship Applications Due May 15

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association is pleased to be able to offer Rudolph Grob Memorial Scholarships each year to students pursuing higher education. The funds for the scholarships are generated by the interest earned by the Association’s Keystone Fund, an endowment-type fund created by the voluntary extra dues paid the Keystone Members of the Association.

Applications are being accepted for the 2023 round of scholarships. See more here.

Camp Hill Farmers Market Seeking for Produce Vendors

Market on Market Camp Hill is looking for an additional produce vendor to meet the demands of our newly established Market! The season runs May 16 – Oct 24, Tuesdays 3:00 to 7:00 pm at the Market St. Parking Lot of Trinity Lutheran Church, Camp Hill. For more information contact Mitzi at farmersmarket@camphillborough.com or 717-805-7243.

Next Berry Growers Info Exchange is May 8th at 7:00 p.m.

PVGA is continuing to host a periodic get-together for berry growers. These "Info Exchanges" will be once a month on the second Monday of the month, but given our early sunsets, we have moved the start time to 7:00 p.m. Please join us - meeting are designed to give growers a chance to get time-sensitive updates on current issues from state and regional extension personnel, exchange info with other growers, get answers to their questions, or just listen in or bounce thoughts off of others.  Kathy Demchak is the host.  


Calls are open to PVGA members and non-members to maximize information exchange, so spread the word and invite your friends and neighbors to join. 

The Zoom link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83077021881

The call-in numbers are (be aware that this is not a toll-free call):

+1 929 436 2866 US (New York)

+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC).

The meeting ID is 830 7702 1881

If you have questions, contact us at pvga@pvga.org or 717-694-3596.

Farm & Food Worker Relief Payments

Starting in March 2023, farm and meatpacking workers can apply for a one-time $600 pandemic relief payment through Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the federal government distributed several rounds of relief payments to small businesses, including farm owners. This relief was vital in keeping many of these small businesses operating during an unprecedented time.

But these relief efforts did not directly support frontline workers, like farmworkers and meatpacking workers, who continued to report to their jobs at the height of the pandemic, when much of the population was ordered to stay home.

Pasa, alongside other organizations across the country, advocated for relief for pandemic-related expenses incurred by farm and food workers. In response, the USDA announced its Farm and Food Worker Relief (FFWR) Grant Program. See more here.

DEP Offers Ag Energy Efficiency Rebates

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Energy Programs Office is offering an Agriculture Energy Efficiency Rebate Program for PA farmers and ag producers. 


Rebates are being offered for the following technology categories:

  1. Energy efficient lighting systems: LED lighting (both interior and exterior), including fixtures and controls (DLC or Energy Star rated lighting)
  2. Energy efficient ventilation equipment: Ventilation fans including both circulation and exhaust fans, motors and controls
  3. Energy efficient dairy and refrigeration equipment: Variable speed vacuum pumps, efficient motors and controls, scroll compressors, well water pre-chillers (plate coolers/heat exchangers), and refrigeration heat recovery (RHR)


All of the above technologies have proven energy savings, which can help reduce operating expenses. The program guidelines detail applicant and equipment eligibility and can be found here: www.dep.pa.gov/agricultureenergy


Rebates will pay up to 50% of equipment purchase costs, up to $5,000. Applicants may apply under all 3 technology categories, but the maximum rebate is $5,000 per applicant. Up to $500 in installation costs may be included in the total project costs for each technology category, to be reimbursed at up to 50%.


The program is open on a first-come first-served basis as funding remains available or through June 30, 2023. You must submit an application to obtain a rebate voucher prior to installing equipment. All applications must be submitted online through eGrants/Electronic Single Application. More information can be found on the DEP website, along with a link to step-by-step application instructions and a link to the online application.