UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After a year-long postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State’s Ag Progress Days is back with a full schedule of demonstrations, activities and learning for all ages. The expo begins Aug. 10 and continues through Aug. 12 at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs in Ferguson Township, Centre County.
Ag Progress Days is one of the largest agricultural expos in the East, featuring nearly 500 commercial and educational exhibits, crop displays, machinery demonstrations, guided research tours, family and youth activities, horse exhibitions, workshops, and the Pasto Agricultural Museum. There also are plenty of food vendors, offering hot sandwiches, lemonade, ice cream and fried fare, among other treats.
The event typically attracts as many as 45,000 visitors from across Pennsylvania and beyond to get a glimpse into the science and business of agriculture. To make the most of Ag Progress Days, it is helpful to know some of the major demonstrations and activities that are available.
College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building
Infectious and vector-borne animal and plant diseases, vaccination issues surrounding COVID-19, and the spread of the invasive spotted lanternfly will take center stage in displays and presentations at the College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building and Theatre.
Native to Asia and found for the first time in the U.S. in Berks County in 2014, the invasive spotted lanternfly has spread to 34 counties across Pennsylvania — a region that the state Department of Agriculture has designated as a quarantine zone. Ag Progress Days visitors can speak with Penn State spotted lanternfly experts, learn how to identify the various life stages of the insect, and find out how they can help contain and manage lanternfly infestations.
Exhibits and theatre presentations also will cover avian influenza, vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease spread by ticks, swine health, how plant disease pandemics impact human and animal health, and the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
In addition, representatives from the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Office of Undergraduate Education will be on hand to provide prospective students and their families information about the college’s programs in animal, biomedical, environmental, plant and social sciences.
The Trade Show
With nearly 500 commercial and educational exhibits, as well as numerous field demonstrations and workshops, there is plenty for spectators to see. Exhibitors cover virtually every product category, including field machinery, milking systems, animal genetics, storage structures, seed, feed, tools, trailers, sprayers, mixers, livestock housing, utility vehicles, fertilizers, fencing, financial products, insurance and more.
Field demonstrations are very popular and allow potential buyers to see and compare equipment in action, such as hay mowers, rakes and tedders, hay balers, and bale handlers. New demonstrations this year include forage chopping and hay mergers. Demonstrations also will inform farmers on how to diversify their operations with vegetable and other specialty crops.
From plant science to animal science, 4-H has something for everyone, and the 4-H Youth Building will introduce kids of all ages to the many facets of 4-H. A special presentation will take place Aug. 11, when the Pennsylvania State Rabbit Breeders Association will have live rabbits and demonstrations.
Several other activities aimed at children and their families can be found throughout the Ag Progress Days grounds. A corn maze offers a fun way to learn facts about Pennsylvania agriculture, and hands-on exhibits at the Pasto Agricultural Museum will give visitors a glimpse into farm and rural life of days gone by.
The Equine Experience
This year’s arena demonstrations cover a range of topics for every interest and horsemanship level. The Keystone Dressage and Combined Drill Team will put their horses through their paces on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, visitors won’t want to miss the Mini Prix — these miniature horses are the definition of small but mighty.
Rick Shaffer, of R&S Paso Fino Stables in Somerset, will return for two breed clinics and riding demonstrations on Wednesday. The Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association Youth Ambassadors miniature horse performances also will be held Wednesday. Returning to the Equine Experience this year is Bear Hill Horse Logging.
Penn State equine science faculty and staff, and members of the Pennsylvania Equine Council, will be available in the Equine Exhibits Building throughout the three-day show to answer questions and provide information on equine-related topics.
The tours will transport visitors by bus to locations in and around Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, a more than 2,000-acre facility where researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences carry out field studies looking at technologies and best practices in farming, conservation and natural resources.
This year’s tours will focus on wildlife habitat, dairy beef feedlots, adaptive grazing, woodlot management and stream buffers. Those who can’t attend the annual expo still can get a flavor for Penn State agricultural research by viewing online virtual tours that are available anytime.
All in-person Ag Progress Days tours are free but require tickets, which can be obtained at the departure point at the corn crib near the top of Main Street at the show site.
Farm Safety and Health
Visitors to the Farm Safety Demonstration area can learn about ATV rollover dangers. There will be six total demonstrations — at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday — showing how incidents can be avoided and presenting best practices for injury prevention for both ATVs and UTVs.
On Wednesday, agricultural safety specialists will hold two rescue demonstrations to highlight the types of rescue devices and training available to first responders for proper management of on-farm incidents. These demonstrations will take place at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Visitors to the Rural Health and Safety Tent will be able to take advantage of free health screenings and information.
Crops, Soils and Conservation Area
In the J.D. Harrington Crops, Soils and Conservation Building, specialists from Penn State and other organizations also will be on hand to answer questions about crop production, weed identification, soil conservation and water quality.
Outside the Harrington Building, the Conservation Exhibit Area will feature displays on managing farmland to promote beneficial insects that are natural enemies of crop pests and weeds; solar-powered livestock watering systems; cover crop varieties; and managing soil health.
The 2021 Pennsylvania Hay Show, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Forage and Grassland Council, will take place in the Harrington Building from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Hay producers can bring samples to be evaluated.
The Family Room
The Family Room Building will offer a variety of interactive displays that will get visitors thinking about the overall health and wellness of themselves and their families.
Hands-on exhibits and demonstrations will cover topics such as understanding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, home food preservation, consumer food safety, mental health and wellness in agriculture, and pesticide education.
The demonstration kitchen in the Family Room has undergone a major renovation, and extension educators will continue their popular healthy cooking demos in this updated space.
Yard and Garden Area
The benefits of creating pollinator-friendly landscapes are a focus of the Yard and Garden Area this year. The flowers and plantings in the 13-year-old demonstration garden at the site attract and nourish huge numbers of native bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
With pollinators in jeopardy, Penn State Master Gardeners teamed up with horticulture faculty members to create and nurture the gardens — located at the end of 11th Street at the show site — to demonstrate that supplying pollinators with food and habitat can be beautiful.
In connection with that exhibit, there will be an observation beehive nearby, where experts from the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association and Penn State Extension will conduct honey bee demonstrations and provide guidance.
Pasto Agricultural Museum
The Pasto Agricultural Museum offers hands-on exhibits to connect visitors to their agricultural past. The approximately 1,300 items in the collection span from 4,000 B.C. to the 1940s — before the widespread use of electricity and gasoline-powered equipment — when farm and household work was accomplished with the muscle power of people and animals.
Programs at the museum during Ag Progress Days will immerse visitors in thinking about food and fiber systems and natural resources and will provide an opportunity to explore important issues facing agriculture and the environment in a historical context.
Location, Dates and Times
Sponsored by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 10; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 11; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 12. Admission and parking are free.
For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays, and the event also can be found on Facebook (@AgProgressDays).
–Amy Duke, Penn State University