August 2021 - 1

Researchers get
$450,000 to study
pepper production
Virginia sees growing
interest in hydroponics,
Great Lakes EXPO
is back to in-person
August 2021 | Volume 55 |
Issue 8
Wagner Farms thrives after
focusing on sustainability
Wagner Farms in Rome, New York, in recent years has been successful in reducing its use of chemical inputs and use of fossil fuels. A variety of new techniques and equipment
have helped the farm to thrive while doing so. Photos: Stephanie Marie Photography
By Stephen Kloosterman
Associate Editor
Everything is in bloom at Wagner
Farms in Rome, New York, where farm
operations and the very business model
have been remodeled around the concept
of sustainability.
Wagner Farms used to be a
commercial-scale grower, with 170 acres
under cultivation using conventional
growing techniques. But, fast forward
to today, and the operation has been
able to do more with less. A corn burner
harnesses a sustainable energy source for
his farm. New crop rotations protect the
soil while reducing the need for fertilizer
and technologies lower costs.
Ronald Wagner was recently
recognized by the parent company
of Vegetable Growers News, with its
2021 Specialty Grower Sustainability
Award, sponsored by Valent U.S.A. The
farm grows vegetable and fruit crops in
addition to sunflowers and grain corn
that's burned to heat the greenhouse.
" Years ago we started out more on
the organic side, and then we went
conventional for a reason. The last 8-10
years have been a combination of the two.
It's been vital to our farming operation
to get a higher-quality product using less
inputs while safeguarding the quality and
the production for human consumption. "
A decision point
The farm once grew about 170 acres of a
mix of grain products, produce including
everything from potatoes and onions to
strawberries, and other u-pick items such
as raspberries. Today that's down to just 80
acres, mostly of grain corn and produce.
The decision to downscale the farm
operation was made by events beyond
Wagner's control.
" We suffered a substantial loss in 2013,
and multiple flood events in a season that
wiped us out, financially crippled us for
a couple years, and then we got behind
with a loss of land for eminent domain as
See WAGNER, page 5
Penn State student farm evolves
By William Lamont Jr.
Professor Emeritus, Vegetable Crops
Department of Plant Science
Penn State University
Activity on the establishment of a
student farm at Penn State University
began in the 1980s when Tim Bowser
and others established a student-run
farm called Circleville Farm. It was
located on 176 acres located several
miles outside of the main campus.
Between the years of 1985 and 1989, an
average yearly profit in sales between
$10,000 and $20,000 effectively
underwrote the student salaries.
In 1989, the decision was made to
transfer the responsibility of the farm to
the university's farm operations manager
seemed that the student farm just didn't
have enough traction to keep the support
for the student farm intact and sustain
the idea of a student farm.
This is where the current story
Students harvesting squash flowers.
Photos: William Lamont
because the university administration at
the time felt that too few students and
faculty members were involved with the
farm. There may have been other reasons
for that decision, but that was indeed
the death knell of the student farm. It
begins. In 1990, Penn State joined the
Big Ten Conference, and it was noted
even back then that other schools in
the conference already had student
farms. In 2007, Heather Karsten in the
College of Agricultural Science did a
sabbatical leave to study student farms at
other institutions with the idea to draft
a proposal on how Penn State could
establish a new student farm. This led to
a white paper being developed in 2008,
" Save Circleville Farm, " as there were
See STUDENT, page 6

August 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of August 2021

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