As many as 45,000 people will visit Rock Springs this week for Penn State's annual Ag Progress Days, one of the largest outdoor agricultural exhibitions in the east.
Ag Progress Days will be held 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on Wednesday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thursday at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs along Route 45.
About 60 percent of the visitors to Ag Progress Days are involved in agricultural production in some way, and the event features special presentations and exhibits, machinery demonstrations, crop displays and a trade show that offers those in the ag industry one-stop shopping for tools and to learn about services and technology for virtually any category.
Even those without a direct connection to the agricultural industry, however, will find much to enjoy among the 500 exhibitors from around the country, spread across 150 acres of farmland, including youth and family activities, horse exhibitions, tours, demonstrations and food. A variety of Pennsylvania fare from hot sandwiches to ice cream and more will be offered by local and state organizations.
"Ag Progress Days has something for everyone, from educational activities for adults, children and families to commercial vendors, machinery demonstrations, and crop exhibits to provide agricultural producers with valuable knowledge to improve their operations," Ag Progress Days manager Jesse Darlington said in a news release. "We encourage all to attend and learn about agriculture and the research being done at Penn State."
At the College of Agricultural Sciences building the invasive spotted lanternfly will be the big focus. The pest was first spotted in Berks County in 2014 and has since spread to 14 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania, threatening various agricultural industries that comprise about $18 billion of the state's economy. Visitors will learn how to identify lanternflies and how they can help contain and manage infestations.
Other topics highlighted will include invasive plant diseases, veterinary science and robotics.
Plenty of youth activities are scheduled. At the 4-H Youth Building, kids can learn about 4-H's many programs in science, technology, engineering and leadership, with rabbits, chickens, ducks, robotics and plant activities and demonstrations.
“4-H serves as a pathway to the future, with many of its alumni going on to have a career or hobbies that are connected to their time in 4-H,” Jeanette Stackhouse, 4-H education program associate, said. “We are excited to showcase what 4-H has to offer during Ag Progress Days.”
Outside the building, Shaver's Creek Environmental Center will have presentations with live turtles, snakes, amphibians and birds of prey.
Visitors also can walk through a butterfly tent with informational displays and live butterflies.Elsewhere on the grounds, the Kids Climb on Main Street lets youth try safety equipment and climb trees. A corn maze at the end of East Fifth Street provides a fun way to learn about agriculture and is accessible for wheelchairs and baby strollers.
Families and kids can play games, watch food demonstrations, try healthy foods and drinks and learn first aid and firearm safety tips at the Family Room building.
The Equine Experience offers something for horse owners and those who just love horses, with breed demonstrations and clinics, informational displays and presentations, and performances. The draft horse hitch from Spring Mount Percherons and the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association Youth Ambassadors miniature horse performances will be held all three days.
The Centre County 4-H Drill Team will perform on Wednesday. A "Salute to America" Evening Extravaganza will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday featuring Percherons and miniature horses, as well as the second annual Miniature Horse Jumping Derby.
“We try to incorporate something new every year,” said Danielle Smarsh, equine extension specialist and assistant professor of equine science in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “The Equine Experience is a great way for people to see the diversity of horses and their uses all in one place.”
At Pasto Agricultural Museum, hands-on exhibits will give a glimpse into farm and rural life before the widespread use of electricity and gas-powered equipment. Among the highlights will be a 1905 Panama O.K. Hay Press demonstration at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday; 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday; and 11 a.m. on Thursday at the top of Main Street, just west of the museum, weather permitting.
Penn State University Press will showcase an array of books about Pennsylvania’s history and natural environment all three days at the museum.
Other events and activities include commercial exhibits and machinery demonstrations featuring some of the latest in agricultural technology and equipment. Darlington said the equipment and demos can be of interest to everyone.
“We have more than 500 commercial and educational exhibits, as well as numerous field demonstrations and workshops, so there is plenty to see and do,” he said.
Free daily bus and walking tours take visitors around the Larson Agricultural Center grounds to see Penn State research on production and management practices on a variety of agricultural aspects.
The Yard and Garden Area will have a focus on pollinator-friendly landscapes, with demonstrations and experts on hand to answer questions and provide advice about a wide range of issues.
“We have added activities for children such as a butterfly house, and for adults we added a victory garden theme in the high tunnel and added six additional presentations in the Yard and Garden Tent,” said Andy Faust, Master Gardener area coordinator. “We are trying to get more youth involved with the Yard and Garden Area, and also offer more informative and relevant talks and presentations.”
In the Crops, Soils and Conservation Building, specialists will answer questions about crop production, weeds and biofuels and provide information about crop and nutrient management, organic farming and sustainable agriculture.
For full daily schedules and maps, visit agsci.psu.edu/apd.