April 8, 2023

In This Issue: 

Happy Easter and Passover

As this year's growing season gets underway, we trust you able to enjoy this season as both the Christian and Jewish traditions celebrate the Lord's redemption of us and the promise of His continued blessing.

Next Berry Growers Info Exchange is April 10th 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.

Listeria Control in Produce Packinghouses

April 14th, 2023. Biglerville, PA.

This is a one-day workshop designed for those who commercially pack, wash, and store fresh produce and are concerned about the potential for contamination with Listeria monocytogenes and other pathogens. Lectures will be presented on FDA regulation of produce packing facilities; the chemistry and technology of cleaning and sanitizing; facilities and equipment sanitary design; the latest research on Listeria prevalence, distribution, and control in packinghouses; and implementing an environmental testing program. Information presented will be useful for individuals in plant operations, quality control, maintenance, and sanitation roles, as well as those that inspect or audit packing operations.

Course information and a link to register is at https://cvent.me/QgE3Vn.

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

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.

Brian Reichart Passes Away

Brian L. Reichart, 55, passed away peacefully on Monday, April 3, 2023, following a courageous battle with cancer, at Hospice & Community Care in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. He was the beloved husband of Lela S. (Mummert) Reichart for 27 years and loving father to Ryder L. Reichart and Artem T. Reichart. Born February 24, 1968, in Hanover, Brian was the son of Margaret A. (Miller) Reichart of New Oxford, and the late Thomas L. Reichart. See more here.

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.

New Hampshire Vegetable Grower All In on His Favorite Farm Equipment Picks

Andre Cantelmo, Co-Owner of Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, NH, grows 50 acres of mixed vegetables covering all four seasons. We asked him about his best farm equipment. Scroll through the photo gallery below to see his top picks. See more here.

Growers Discuss Why Urban Agriculture Deserves More Attention

Among chefs, alt-meat ambassadors, agtech startups and foodie fundraisers, urban agriculture advocates came together at the 2023 SXSW Conference for a panel called “Rethinking Urban Agriculture.” Panelists included farmers growing under an acre to fully scaled, expansive indoor ag operations — growers united in their belief that growing food close to the end consumer has more benefits than meets the eye.

The panel was hosted by Foodtank, a nonprofit think tank, during a SXSW-sponsored summit March 12, at Huston-Tillotson University in East Austin. “Urban farming is, in some ways, a beautiful umbrella term for many different types of activities, right?” said Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO of greenhouse-based urban farm company. See more here.

2023 Fresh Market Vegetable Enterprise Budgets

Enterprise budgets for fresh market vegetables have been updated with prices and information for 2023. You can use these budgets to estimate your production costs and returns for several different crops: bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, seedless watermelon, sweet corn (hand harvested), tomato, and potato. All enterprise budgets are in Excel. The first tab contains research estimated costs and returns. The second tab allows you to enter your own costs and returns. See more here.

Vegetable Seed Germination in Direct Seeding

Many vegetables are commonly direct seeded in the field. There are many factors that affect seed germination but soil temperature and moisture are the most critical. Other factors include seed quality (age, conditioning, handling), seed treatments, and seeding depth.

Early Spring Planted Crops

The table below shows the average days to germination for cold season crops. For example, peas will take over a month to geminate with soil temperatures at 41°F, two weeks with soil temperature of 50°F, and one week with soil temperature in the 70s. Spinach, onions, and radish will germinate at the lowest temperatures. Some crops (celery, lettuce, and spinach) stop germination at high soil temperatures. See more here.

Improving Early Fruit Set in Seedless Watermelons

The first watermelons will be planted at the end of April across the region. Markets for early watermelons are normally the strongest, so early planting is often more profitable. However, fruit set is often below desired levels in the earliest plantings and crown sets in early plantings often have quality issues such as higher levels of hollow heart. The following are some considerations for managing watermelons to maximize early fruit set:

Get plants off to a good start with a minimum of stress. In early plantings always plant on a warming trend where temperatures are expected to increase and skies are mostly clear. Black plastic mulch will then allow soils to accumulate heat and roots will be able to establish more quickly. Use every row rye windbreaks (or row covers if windbreaks have not been planted) to reduce heat losses and protect plants. Watermelons that are transplanted in cold, rainy, and cloudy conditions risk significant losses and will have slow establishment. See more here.

Plasticulture Strawberry Fertilization

Plasticulture strawberries are blooming now across Delmarva. Plasticulture strawberries should have had nitrogen applications prior to bloom. Base recommendations are 25 lbs/a of N at greenup and another 25 lbs/a of N 2-3 weeks later. If fertigating weekly, addition of 3-5 lbs of nitrogen per acre per week may be warranted. Nitrogen is critical prior to and during early bloom. Including potassium at a 1:1 ratio with nitrogen will often improve fruit quality (sugars).

You can monitor petiole sap N and K concentration in the field. This is based on sampling leaf petioles from the most recently expanded leaves, extracting the sap, and using portable nitrate and potassium meters. The procedure can be found at this website http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/cv004, along with recommended levels for different growth stages. Targets initially are 600-800 ppm petiole sap nitrate and 3000-3500 ppm petiole sap potassium. See more here.

Botytis Gray Mold Resources

Botrytis gray mold is flaring up all over [North Carolina], due to the weather in combination with extensive row-cover use early on. There are several points to consider to effectively control Botrytis gray mold in a strawberry field.

Sanitation (remvoing infected tissue from the field) and monitoring the field for symptoms is imortant this year. Fungicides play a key role in Botrytis management. If symptoms become visible, early preventative fungicide applications in conjunction with sanitation and continous monitoring are key elements that will to manage Bortytis gray mold. Botrytis is in the field all year long, can come in with planting material and often remains undetected until bloom and fruiting. See more here.

Effects of Low Doses of a Novel dsRNA-based Biopesticide (Calantha) on the Colorado Potato Beetle 

The Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) is a destructive pest of the cultivated potato, Solanum tuberosum. Members of this species are well-suited to agricultural habitats because of a suite of physiological adaptations and their ability to evolve resistance to multiple insecticides. Recently, a novel double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) insecticide (Calantha, active ingredient ledprona) has been demonstrated as an effective tool to manage Colorado potato beetle populations through RNA interference (RNAi). Previous studies have demonstrated the lethality of the high doses of ledprona but had not assessed possible effects of low doses that may happen due to product degradation in the environment, incomplete spray coverage, and foliage growth. Exposure of fourth instar larvae to low concentrations of ledprona interfered with their pupation. Exposure of adults significantly reduced their mobility after seven days, as well as their fertility. Reproductive effects were stronger in females, especially when exposed before reaching sexual maturity. The observed effects of low doses of ledprona may aid in the overall management of Colorado potato beetles by reducing the size of resident populations, inhibiting beetle movement within and between fields, and reducing the population growth rate. See more here.

New Jersey Allium Leaf Miner Update: 04/06/23

Allium leaf miner feeding and egg laying injury was discovered on chives and garlic near Milford in Hunterdon County on Wednesday. All weather stations on the NEWA network except for a few in the highest elevation sites in northern New Jersey have surpassed 250 growing degree days (GDD) base 39˚F. 39˚F is close to the lower developmental temperature (38.3˚ F) which our colleagues at Penn State recommend for predicting the first emergence of ALM adults.  In recent years, initial feeding/egg laying scars have been detected within a few days of local weather stations recording the 250 GDD threshold. Growers who feel they may be impacted by this pest should check the accumulated GDD from local weather stations.  Growers in southern counties may reasonably assume there will be ALM activity in their area soon, if not already happening. To determine GDD from local weather stations, the NEWA website https://newa.cornell.edu/ is very helpful. From the NEWA home screen, select the nearest weather station from drop down menu at the center of the page. Next, scroll down to “Weather Tools” on the right side of the page, and select “DD Calculator”. Select your start date (1/01/23) and end date as well as Degree Day Type (39 F) from the menu at the left of the page. The site will automatically generate the accumulated GDD base 39F to the last day of your requested sample, and then offer a forecast of accumulated GDD for the next week. See more here.

Industry Viewpoint: FSMA's Critical Tracking Events and Key Data Elements

The FDA Final Rule on FSMA Section 204 published in November 2022 adds the requirement to capture and record Critical Tracking Events or CTE’s. The FDA defines a “Critical Tracking Event” to mean an event in the food supply chain involving the harvesting, pre-packing cooling, and initial packing of a Raw Agricultural Commodity, which applies to any food “not obtained from a fishing vessel, shipping, receiving, or transformation of the food.”

In prior articles we looked at the overall CTE requirements and explored harvesting and cooling CTEs. Today we will deep dive into Initial packing and the associated Key Data Elements for that event.

For produce, as the event name implies, “Initial Packing” means the first packing of a RAC.

Under the final rule, lot-based recording keeping is not required at harvest or any other point before initial packing. While this information is not required, most growers have already assigned some form of unique lot identifier that tracks the seeds, processes and application of nutrients or pesticides associated with growing the commodity in the given lot. It is likely wise to store this data for later use. See more here.

Ways Farmers Can Tap Into Digital Modeling for Precise Crop Forecasting

Agriculture started using digital modeling and forecasting hundreds of years ago, computed and analyzed by the grower’s mind. More fertilizer should equal more yield, until it doesn’t, then it’s time to change the inputs. Herbicides kill certain weeds, until they don’t, then new herbicides are sought out and used.

As the digital agricultural industry increases in pace, the job of improving yields to feed the world’s population is analyzing years of information, data points, and outcomes to create digital models for predicting the weather, climate, water availability, and soil. Growers need to prescribe preventative measures for maintaining yields and quality, rather than corrective action after damage. Digital modeling will provide information for preventative action. 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.

Squash Bees Flourish in Response to Agricultural Intensification

While pollinator populations of many species have plummeted worldwide, one bee species is blowing up the map with its rapid population expansion. The key to this insect’s success? Its passion for pumpkins, zucchinis, and other squashes, and the massive increase in cultivation of these crops across North America over the last 1,000 years.

A new study, published April 3 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, led by Penn State found that the squash bee (Eucera pruinosa) has evolved in response to intensifying agriculture — namely squashes in the genus Curcurbita. The research is the first to demonstrate the role of agriculture as an evolutionary force acting on a wild insect pollinator and may have implications for food security. See more here.

USDA Swears in 32 Members to Potatoes USA’s Board of Directors

Last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a swearing-in ceremony for 30 producer members and two importers to join the Potatoes USA board of directors during its annual meeting. Pennsylvania's Dave Masser of Sterman Masser Potatoes was among the new appointees.

In a display of commitment to the potato industry, the USDA appointed 16 new members and reappointed 16 members to the board to serve three-year terms, expiring Feb. 28, 2026. Alex Caryl, branch chief of the Market Development Division of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s Specialty Crops Program, officiated the swearing-in ceremony.

The nomination process for board members is conducted annually. Candidates are proposed by the industry and are appointed by the secretary of agriculture after a thorough review. The 2023 board showcases an ensemble of 93 members, with representation from growers, importers and one public member, reflecting the organization's commitment to a broad spectrum of knowledge and experience in the industry. See more here.

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. For 2022 five scholarships were given as follows:

J. Parker Milton  – University of Delaware, $1,400

Clayton Harner – Penn State University, $1,000

Reagan Kelley – Mansfield University, $1,000

Cody Lehman – Penn State University, $500

Tyler Shannon  – Penn State University, $500

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.

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Announces New Gold Medal Plant Winners

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has shared its list of new Gold Medal Plant winners, now available to the public through most garden retailers. The Gold Medal Plant Program was created by PHS in 1979 to celebrate and showcase beautiful, easy to grow plant species ideal for home gardening. Each year, a committee of horticulture experts convene to assess trees, shrubs, and perennials on various criteria including their suitability for home gardens in the mid-Atlantic region, their ease of cultivation, ready commercial availability, wildlife value, weather tolerance, and pest resistance.

Since the program’s inception, PHS has named over 150 Gold Medal Plants. Including this year’s winners, all plants are indicated for their hardiness in the 5 to 7 hardiness zones, which covers the Mid-Atlantic region, but are also valid in other regions. 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

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.

Penn State Extension to Host Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Training Courses Throughout Pennsylvania

 The Food Safety Modernization Act(FSMA) is the most comprehensive change to produce farming in the past 70 years. Farms with less than $30,000 in gross Produce sales are not covered under this Act. Also, growers who exclusively grow crops not normally consumed raw like potatoes, pumpkins, and sweet corn, for example are not covered by FSMA

One of the requirements of the law is that all growers covered under the Act attend a Grower Training Course. Participants will receive a notebook and receive a certificate of attendance. The cost for the course is typically in the $150 range. This year we have funding from PDA to reduce the cost to $30 per PA grower. See more here.

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.