ABCD Corp.’s 4th Annual Ag Career Days Another Success

 In News

Agriculture is big business here in the First Frontier Blair County. It remains our largest industry sector and represents the largest share of our local GDP. That’s stands true for PA as well. A study released this spring by the Team PA Foundation reported that “agriculture and its associated industries provide a $135.7 billion annual economic impact, representing close to 18% of Pennsylvania’s gross state product. It employs and supports nearly 580,000 people paying wages of $27 billion.” Preparing a next generation workforce for the diverse job opportunities here in our region both on and off the farm is a big priority for us.

For the fourth straight year the Ag Committee of the Altoona-Blair County Development (ABCD) Corp. held their Agricultural Career Days from May 7-8 at the Kulp Family Dairy Farm in Martinsburg, PA. The event is held for seventh-grade student in Blair County allowing over 1,400 students the opportunity to spend the day touring a working farm. During the event students learn about a diverse variety of jobs related to the agriculture industry through stations and presenters.

This event takes a lot of planning and work, but the results are well worth the time and effort….and we owe a great big YEE-HAW to our very own Rachel Prosser who makes everything runs smoothly this and every year. If you see Rachel make sure to tell her how great the event was!

We are also appreciative for all of the businesses and farms that donated to this year’s event; Ace Fix-It Hardware, Altoona First Savings Bank, Benzel’s Bretzel Bakery, Blair County Conversation District, Blair County Farm Bureau, Center for Dairy Excellence, Cove Lumber, DelGrosso Foods, First Energy Foundation, Growmark FS, Imler’s Poultry, Jeff S. Long Construction, Land O’Lakes, Logan Valley Oil, Inc., M&T Bank, Metz Ventures, Inc., Nason Foundation, NPC, Inc., Penn State Altoona, Professional Dairy Producers, Reliance Bank, Ritchey’s Dairy, Roaring Spring Bottled Water, Sheetz, Inc. and The EADS Group.

Below is a re-print of the article by Walt Frank in the May 8, 2019 Altoona Mirror:

MARTINSBURG — Blair County seventh-grade students are spending part of their day down on the farm.

About 1,400 students — some visited Tuesday and more will visit today — are visiting the Kulp Family Dairy during Altoona-Blair County Develop­ment Corp.’s fourth annual Agriculture Career Day.

The event focuses on a multitude of careers in the agriculture industry. Dave Hileman of Hilecrest Farms in Sinking Valley, an ABCD Corp. agriculture committee member, got the idea for the event from friends in Wisconsin.

“The purpose of this event is to expose students to opportunities in agriculture for a career. Agriculture is more than working on a farm with animals,” Hileman said. “Farming is becoming very high tech. There are so many opportunities, they need to think about them in seventh or eighth grade. “We also want them to see what a modern farm business looks like,” Hileman said.

West Central Equipment of Martinsburg is among those participating in the event. “We are a John Deere dealership. We tell them about the different categories of work that are available at a dealership — parts, service and sales. One of the main things I want to stress is they are fortunate they live in an agricultural area and that anyone living around here could work in agriculture. You don’t have to grow up on a farm,” said Daryl Hartman, human resources manager.

The Center for Dairy Excellence is again participating in the event. “My job is to teach teachers and teach consumers how to make good choices. I teach kids about farm management and animal care, how farmers take care of their animals,” said Brittany Haag, dairy education manager.

Melissa Laratonda, owner of Broken Wheel Ranch, Hollidaysburg, was on hand with her 1-year-old mustang “Calamity Jane,” which she recently brought back from Wyoming. “We are here to tell the children there are different areas of the farming industry. We board horses and train different breeds. I also help people learn how to ride,” Laratonda said.

“Equine farming is 24 hours a day. You do it for the passion. I didn’t get into this until I was 53, and that was four years ago. It was something I was going to do,” said Rachel DiAndrea, who boards her horse at Broken Wheel Ranch.

Hometown Bank, which recently opened a Martins­burg office, is a first-time participant in the event. “We do agricultural lending as well as commercial and consumer lending. I want them to understand the impact interest rates and time can have on earnings,” said Merle Helsel, chairman of the board. “Too many young people don’t understand that they can invest now and have a lot of money for retirement. They should save early.”

“We want to show them what they see when they walk into a bank, what they will encounter if they apply for a loan to buy a farm or equipment, the different forms that they may see during their life,” said Cory Thomas, commercial lender.

ABCD Corp.’s event is being recognized across the state. “There are other organizations in parts of the state using this as a model on how to do it and set it up. The idea seems to be spreading in different areas of the state,” Hileman said.

“We are working with ABCD Corp. on how to get the word out to other areas such as Berks and Lancaster counties. I like being part of it,” Haag said. “It is an incredible thing that they do here.”

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