Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday, February 27: Touring Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Friday, February 27, 2015

It was a mighty early start for the SDARL class this day so we could enjoy our field trip up in Pennsylvania. The goal of today was to show the class how farmers producing the same commodities as us, are able to exist and succeed facing very different and sometimes far more challenging circumstances. We also caught a glimpse of how a city of 65,000 copes with similar wastewater regulations as us farmers.

The Susquehanna River, near Holtwood
So lets take a look at some of the day's highlights.
View from Groff's farm, Holtwood, PA

Steve Groff presenting on the CoverCrop Radish

Steve Groff is the man     
Cedar Meadow Farm was the first stop on the trip and this is where Steve Groff receives his mail. Who is Steve you ask? He is a crop farmer as well as a seed producer of cover crops. But what makes Steve worth flying out to the east coast for? He has marketed a turnip that is very good at breaking up hardpan and pulling up nutrients out of the soil depths. Steve travels the nation and world explaining the benefits that cover crops can provide.

Ruth Ayne-Hocker, PE, City of Lancaster
Next we were whisked off to the Lancaster City and heard Ms. Ruth Ayn Hocker with the city.  The class saw first hand how farmers are not the only ones who have to incorporate new measures to deal with government regulation on wastewater discharge. The city lies within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and so must deal with strict wastewater regulations. We saw basketball courts made out of ‘permeable asphalt’ and playgrounds resting on spongy permeable surfaces. We also saw a street alley made of bricks resting upon a couple foot thick layer of rock. And what is the point of this? Lancaster City’s way of reducing wastewater pollution running off into the rivers is by simply having less runoff. The rain lands on the basketball court and the back alley, and instead of going down the storm sewer, it just permeates through the surface and down into the soil.

Ms. King and Mrs. Reed-Harry
Business owners in Lancaster City also work with the wastewater regulations. A fine example of that was found at the Lancaster Brewing Company, where we had lunch. Our host of the day, Marel King of the Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Commission, gave a "Chesapeake Bay 101" overview. Mrs. Jennifer Reed-Harry, PennAg Industries Association, followed with a "Pennsylvania Agriculture 101" presentation.

Luke Brubaker and his son Mike, Tony not pictured
Solar panels at the barn roof
Residential area near the Brubaker Farm
Brubaker Farm: Methane Digester
The grand finale was a tour of the award winning Brubaker Farm near Mount Joy, PA. Luke & Barbara Brubaker, with sons Mike and Tony, run a dairy and chicken confinement in a place that has some opportunities, and many more challenges than we do. So how do they deal with these issues?
The opportunities: They sure appreciate having millions of milk drinking customers in the nearby metros. Those metros are also the challenge. Like the city of Lancaster, Brubaker Farm must deal with the strict Chesapeake Bay regulations. Rural Pennsylvania also doesn’t look like rural South Dakota. We saw new neighborhoods sprawling around the dairy and a paved road that curves right around the barn and through the farm! To keep the noses of the neighbors happy, the farm has proactively chosen to turn the animal waste in to methane and burn it for energy. The left overs from that process is used for fertilizing fields and bedding cattle. Next to no smell. How innovative is that?

Mr. Derek Ingram drove the bus.

Submitted by Dusty Schley