UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An agricultural industry leader, a center dedicated to advancing animal agriculture and a Penn State senior from Lancaster were honored when the Penn State Agricultural Council presented its 2020 Leadership Awards at the council’s fall delegate meeting Oct. 15.
The awards are given annually in three categories to acknowledge individuals, organizations and events that successfully advance agriculture in Pennsylvania, said Gregg Robertson, council president. Winners receive a Penn State Nittany Lion statuette, and their names are engraved on a permanent display on the University Park campus.
The Penn State Agricultural Council Leadership Award was given to Wayne Martenas, a 1974 graduate of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. After graduation, he joined Sperry New Holland, a designer and manufacturer of farm equipment in New Holland, Pennsylvania.
He held several positions during a long career at what became Case New Holland — the second largest producer of agricultural equipment in the world — working in offices in Belgium, England, Canada, Chicago and New Holland. He was vice president of engineering for several years and retired from the company in December 2012 as vice president of facilities and security.
Martenas has been a member of the Penn State Ag Council since 2010. He has served on the board since 2013 and was president from 2016 to 2018. He also served as president of the Lancaster County Extension Board.
“This connection to the local county extension office, along with his extensive corporate experience, provided the perfect background for Wayne to serve in a strategic role and provide input into the development of Penn State Extension’s new business model,” Robertson said.
Martenas has served on the college’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program advisory board and as a judge for its annual Ag Springboard business-pitch competition. He works with the college’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering to foster collaboration with Case New Holland.
The Leadership in Action Award was presented to the Center for Poultry and Livestock Excellence, and recognized the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, state legislators and PennAg Industries for their collaboration to establish and fund the center as part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill.
The center, which assists the poultry, swine, lamb, sheep and goat sectors by providing funding for research and projects to advance animal agriculture, is administered by PennAg Industries. Accepting the award were state Rep. Martin Causer, R-67, and Greg Hostetter. deputy secretary for animal health and food safety in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
The center’s programs focus on biosecurity education and planning assistance; biosecurity implementation grants; regional workshops for strategic and emergency communications planning; build out of statewide animal agriculture infrastructure; research to approve hemp for animal feed; and investments in improved food safety infrastructure.
“As COVID-19 changed our way of life, the center provided leadership by helping to provide ag processors necessary personal protective equipment,” Robertson said, adding that Hostetter helped to establish the state’s Personal Protective Equipment Reimbursement Program through the center. As a result, $285,000 was distributed among 41 animal-processing businesses from 20 counties.
The Youth Leadership Award was given to Samantha Shirk, a senior in the college, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science with minors in agricultural communications, poultry and avian sciences, and international agriculture. She plans to pursue a career in agricultural marketing and communications supporting the poultry industry.
Shirk attended the 2016 Pennsylvania School for Excellence in the Agricultural Sciences, which is designed to provide rising high school seniors an expansive overview of agricultural science and natural resources. Since 2018, she has served as a program assistant for the School for Excellence, developing program materials, leading field and class activities, and supervising high school participants. She also serves as president of the PSEAS Alumni Club.
As an intern for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, she assisted with publicity for the Pennsylvania Farm Show. She also interned with Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, a large-scale, cage-free production company, and completed a virtual sales and marketing internship with Elanco Animal Health Poultry team. She currently serves as a media relations intern for the College of Agricultural Sciences. Shirk also played an instrumental role in developing the Ag Careers Promotional Project, an initiative sponsored by agricultural industries to promote agricultural careers.
She serves as president of the Poultry Science Club, is a member of a social-professional agricultural fraternity, was selected to represent the college as an Ag Advocate, and is being initiated into the Coaly Society is an honorary society for students who have demonstrated leadership excellence
The council also recognized 2019 Penn State Ag Council Leadership Award recipient, state Sen. Judith Schwank, D-11, of Berks County, who could not attend last year’s meeting. A Penn State alumna, she worked as a horticultural extension educator and county extension director in Penn State Extension’s Berks County office, where she established the Master Gardener program.
In 2000, she became the first woman to serve as a commissioner in Berks County. In that role, she was instrumental in initiating the Berks Municipal Land Preservation program.
Sen. Schwank serves as the minority chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. She spearheaded legislation that led to the reinvigoration of the industrial hemp industry in Pennsylvania. She also has advocated for land preservation and protecting grain farmers, and she helped launch informational meetings about the spotted lanternfly.
The Penn State Ag Council is an independent association of more than 90 organizations that represent agricultural or related interests in Pennsylvania. The council advises Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and serves as an advocate for agricultural education and research to both legislative policymakers and agricultural leaders.
–Amy Duke, Penn State University