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November/December 2005

Inside This Issue:

 

Center’s Legislative Board Members Are Prime Sponsors
General Assembly Passes Historic Barns Resolutions
On October 24, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate unanimously passed resolutions recognizing the importance of the state’s historic barns. The resolutions also call for a statewide inventory of these historically significant structures.

“One of the most enduring icons of Pennsylvania’s agricultural and rural landscapes is its barns,” said Representative Sheila Miller, chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. “These resolutions demonstrate the General Assembly’s recognition of our state’s agricultural and rural past and the significant of historic barns to today’s agricultural and tourism industries.”

Representative Miller and Representative Mike Hanna, board treasurer, were prime sponsors of House Resolution 463. Senator John Gordner, board vice chairman and Senator John Wozniak, board member, were prime sponsors of Senate Resolution 190.

The resolutions affirm the importance of the agricultural industry and the growing contributions of heritage tourism to Pennsylvania’s economy and recognize that Pennsylvania has 182 farms and barns listed on the National Register of Historic Properties. In addition, Pennsylvania has 1,900 farms in the Century Farm Program and 117 farms in the Bicentennial Farm Program, which recognize Pennsylvania families who have been farming the same land for 100 and 200 years, respectively. Both programs are sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
The resolutions also recognize the 11 distinctive styles of the “Pennsylvania Barn.”

Since no statewide inventory of Pennsylvania historic barns exists, the resolutions urge the state Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission to inventory and catalogue historic barns in Pennsylvania and to report their findings to the General Assembly by November 30, 2006. The results of the inventory may then be used in the promotion of Pennsylvania’s agriculture and tourism industries.

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Study Examines Roles of Community Watershed Organizations
Pennsylvania’s more than 80,000 miles of streams and rivers and 104 watersheds face numerous pressures. Excess nutrient loading, sedimentation, decreased flow, chemical pollutants, invasive species, access, and recreational conflict all play a role in threatening the health of our waterways and watersheds. In the last decade, there was a rapid expansion of community watershed organizations (CWOs), which work to solve local watershed issues across Pennsylvania and the nation.

Research sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and conducted by Dr. Francis Higdon and a team of researchers from Pennsylvania State University explores the organizational characteristics of local watershed organizations in Pennsylvania and discusses how these local groups are contributing to the development of local leadership, community capacity, and environmental policy in rural communities. The research focused on the genesis of local watershed organizations in rural areas and how these groups developed relationships within and outside their local communities. The research also explored the relationships and interconnections between CWOs, elected officials, government agencies and national-level environmental organizations.

The issues

Organization

Partnerships

Resources

Activities and accomplishments

CWOs are diverse, active
Pennsylvania CWOs are very diverse and use a wide range of tools to achieve their objectives. CWOs are providing examples of successful community organizations, and their activities and partnerships create networks of people who are interested in being active in their communities.

More Information
Call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org for a copy of the report, Assessment of Community Watershed Organizations in Rural Pennsylvania.

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Chairman’s Message
This issue’s Chairman’s Message has been the most difficult to write in my tenure as chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. My apologies to the staff for procrastinating on this task. First, I hope all of you have read the exciting news on the front page of this edition of Rural Perspectives that highlights a Center driven legislative accomplishment, with the passage of identical resolutions in both houses of the General Assembly, calling for an inventory of our Commonwealth’s historic barn structures before they disappear. I appreciate the support of the legislative members of the Center board in making this a priority this fall and look forward to working with the Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in creating this database in the months ahead.

As I look to the future, it is time to share with you my plans to retire from the House of Representatives in 2006. I have enjoyed my seven terms as a state legislator and my previous decade serving as the executive director of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee under the chairmanship of former Senator Edward Helfrick, who retired last session. Senator Helfrick was replaced by my very capable colleague and current Center vice chairman, Senator John Gordner. To help ensure a smooth transition with my departure at the end of this legislative session, I have decided to step down as chairman and transfer that task to Senator Gordner beginning with the New Year. I also wanted to ensure that I would be available to assist the new appointee to the Center board who will represent the House Republican Caucus. I am passing this role to Representative Tina Pickett, who has been appointed by Speaker John Perzel to carry on my caucus’ concerns for rural Pennsylvania.

As one Miller leaves the board, another Miller has joined it. It was my pleasure to welcome Dr. Keith Miller, president of Lock Haven University, at the Center’s November board meeting. Dr. Miller is representing the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. I look forward to his contributions on behalf of the academic community in developing policy to address issues involving rural Pennsylvania.

Speaking about education, be sure to read the article on Page 4 about the network of Community Education Councils operating throughout rural Pennsylvania. Formally established in 1998 with the passage of Act 154, these councils are providing many rural Pennsylvanians with educational and job-training opportunities.

Whenever I replace my calendar with the New Year’s edition, I am reminded that the Pennsylvania Farm Show is right around the corner. 2006 will mark the 90th year for this agricultural extravaganza here in our state’s capital. I encourage you to make the trip to Harrisburg for this weeklong event, from January 7th to 14th, to enjoy the show and savor a taste of our state’s agricultural harvest and heritage.

As I prepare to close this message and chapter in my life, I want to thank the board members and staff of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for their hard work and dedication throughout my tenure. It has been a privilege to serve as chairman during the past decade, and I look forward to continuing my commitment to agriculture and rural Pennsylvania in the years ahead as I travel down a new pathway and close out my term as a member of the House of Representatives.

Representative Sheila Miller

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Center Board Welcomes Dr. Keith Miller and Representative Tina Pickett
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors welcomes its newest board members, Dr. Keith Miller, president of Lock Haven University, and Representative Tina Pickett.

Dr. Miller joined the board in August and represents the State System of Higher Education.

He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Arizona. In 1987, he served as assistant professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., in the Management and Marketing Department, and later moved to Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Conn.
From 1994 to 2001, Dr. Miller was dean of the College of Business at Niagara University in N.Y. In 2001, he was named provost and vice chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and in 2004, was selected as president of Lock Haven University.

Currently, Dr. Miller serves as a member of the Clinton County Community Foundation, Sovereign Bank Board, Pennsylvania Campus Compact, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) Committee on Policies and Purposes, Lock Haven Kiwanis, and the board of directors of Adventures in Health, Education and Agricultural Development.

Representative Tina Pickett, who serves the 110th Legislative District, which includes Sullivan County and parts of Bradford and Susquehanna counties, will join the board in January 2006.

Rep. Pickett has served in the House of Representatives since 2001 and is currently on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Game and Fisheries, Insurance, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Tourism and Recreational Development committees.

She is a board member of the Area Agency on Aging, the Northern Tier Regional Planning Commission and the Endless Mountains Tourism Board. She is also president of the Wysox Municipal Sewer Authority and a member of the Towanda Lions Club and Northern Tier Counseling.

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Rural Works: Community Education Councils Respond to Needs of Local Communities
This article is part of a series that demonstrates how communities are tackling issues at the grassroots level in rural Pennsylvania. Thanks to those who shared the details of their projects with us. Now, we can share them with you so that we can all learn how rural works in Pennsylvania.

The nine Community Education Councils, located throughout rural Pennsylvania, serve their communities by assessing the educational and training needs of their communities and partnering with providers to offer educational programs. (Photo courtesy of Warren/Forest Higher Education Council.)

A changing job market, new business opportunities, or a desire to change careers are just some reasons why rural residents take post-secondary and continuing education courses. For many of these residents, though, time constraints, travel costs and distance to the nearest university or community college were roadblocks to furthering their education. In 1998, some of those obstacles were undone with the passage of Act 154, which formally established Pennsylvania’s Community Education Councils.

The councils provide access to post-secondary and higher education opportunities to educationally underserved areas in the state. The nine councils, located throughout the state’s rural counties, serve their communities by assessing the educational and training needs of their communities and partnering with providers to offer educational programs. All of the councils receive a portion of their operating funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and all solicit support from a variety of other sources, such as foundations, local businesses, and grants.

Collaboration keeps classes operating
To operate effectively, each Community Education Council researches the population it serves to provide the most suitable programs and respond to local needs.

When budget limitations forced a Warren County school district to discontinue its GED and other adult education classes beginning in 2006, the Warren/Forest Higher Education Council (WFHEC), located in Warren, Pa., stepped in and is now working with the district to keep the classes running. Part of the transition calls for WFHEC to establish an approved GED testing site to meet Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) requirements.

In addition to the GED classes, WFHEC also expects to expand its services to offer non-credit, licensing and certification courses as well as its existing bachelor’s and master’s programs. According to WFHEC Executive Director Joan Stitzinger, this is an important transition for the community. “The GED can be a stepping stone for students to pursue secondary education,” Stitzinger says. And these students will now have these secondary education resources available to them through WFHEC.

Reaching out to local businesses
In many rural communities, businesses are also looking for resources to train new and existing employees. Through its In-Step Program, the Armstrong Educational Trust (AET), located in Kittanning, Pa., works with local manufacturers to provide training for people entering the workforce.

“AET looks at the needs of area employers and matches these needs with area workers,” says Executive Director David English.

AET also recognizes how important it is to retain existing educational resources. In 2002, AET assumed the operation of an environmental learning center that once was operated by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, but was closed in 1999.

AET is helping a consortium of county healthcare providers to recruit workers by developing a healthcare careers video, which, English says is being targeted to both individuals and groups. “After presenting the video, which gives a first-hand look at 15 healthcare occupations, we can follow up with a survey for initial impressions to find out if the video sparked more interest in people considering healthcare-related careers.”

Strong presence in the community
Some councils, like the Potter County Education Council (PCEC), have also helped colleges and universities establish a presence in communities that are often far away from main campuses. This presence encourages enrollment by sections of the population that otherwise may not have had the opportunity to take classes, whether to earn a degree or to further enrich skills or education.

According to Executive Director Helen Nawrocki, cooperation among Community Education Councils and other educational institutions extends throughout the state. PCEC, for example, offers programs from several other county community colleges, including Bucks, Montgomery and Lehigh-Carbon.

Keeping pace with needs, trends, technology
To make classes and training more available to rural residents, the councils are also taking advantage of distance education, or online courses. However, some schools do require students to meet with instructors or take tests on campus. To facilitate this, Nawrocki says that PCEC has approval to use interactive TV. “Students can come to our facility to meet with their instructors through video hook-ups,” she says. “We also have a number of wireless laptops available for students to use if they do not have their own computers, so that they can have access to email and the online classes.”

While education is their main focus, the councils’ services aren’t limited to that area alone. They also assist with other crucial individual and community needs, like composing or updating resumes and acting as a channel for employment opportunities for job seekers.

All of these services make Pennsylvania’s Community Education Councils a vital part of economic development and personal enrichment to rural residents throughout the commonwealth.

Rural Works Breakdown: Community Education Councils
Mission/Goals: Provide quality post-secondary educational services in underserved rural regions.

Funding and In-Kind Support: All councils receive funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and have a schedule of fees for classes. Each seeks support from a variety of other sources including private foundation grants and businesses.

Manpower: Number of full and part-time staff, volunteers and instructors varies with each council.

Measurable Outcomes: Many success stories. PCEC, for example, has had enrollment increases from 134 students in fiscal year 1995-1996 to 1,673 students in fiscal year 2004-2005.

Contact Information: General information about the councils is available from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Postsecondary Services, 333 Market St., 12th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17126 – 0333, phone (717) 787-4313. The individual councils are:

Armstrong Educational Trust
West Hills Commons
81 Glade Drive
Kittanning, PA 16201
Phone: (724) 545-6127
Web: www.armstrongedutrust.org

Clarion/Venango Educational Resource Alliance
Oil Region Career Link
255 Elm Street, Suite 1
Oil City, PA 16301
Phone: (814) 677-4427
Web: www.cvera.org

Community Education Council of Elk & Cameron Counties
4 Erie Avenue, Suite 200
St. Marys, PA 15857
Phone: (814) 781-3437
Web: www.ed-Council.org

Corry Higher Education Council
221 North Center Street
Corry, PA 16407
Phone: (814) 664-9405
Web: www.corryhied.org

Lawrence County Learning Center
131 Columbus Inner Belt
New Castle, PA 16101
Phone: (724) 656-3564
Web: www.lawrencecountylearningcenter.com

Potter County Education Council
P.O. Box 5
Coudersport, PA 16915
Phone: (814) 274-4877
Web: www.pottercountyedCouncil.org

Schuylkill Community Education Council
1500 Rockwood Center
Route 61 South
Pottsville, PA 17901
Phone: (570) 385-5556
Web: www.schuylkilleducation.org

Mercer County Community Education Council
1333 East State Street
Sharon, PA 16146
Phone: (724) 983-0970
Web: www.tescec.org

Warren/Forest Higher Education Council
185 Hospital Drive
Warren, PA 16365
Phone: (814) 723-3222
Web: www.warrenforesthied.org

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2002 Census of Agriculture
All About Farms and Farmers
The Census of Agriculture, conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides all sorts of information about farms and farmers.

The 2002 census data reveal that Pennsylvania had more than 58,000 farms on more than 7.7 million acres.

The average farm was 133 acres while half of all farms were smaller than 90 acres.

The average market value of a Pennsylvania farm, including land and buildings, was $452,874, and the average value of the machinery and equipment on a farm was nearly $60,000.

Most farms are quite small. Four percent of farms were 500 acres or more while 9 percent were less than 10 acres.

More than half of all farms have sales of less than $5,000 a year. But about one in four have sales of at least $50,000. Because some farms have very high sales, the average market value of agricultural products sold is $73,263. After expenses, the average Pennsylvania farm has a net income of $14,853. Because of these small incomes, many farmers work off the farm. Among the principal operators of commonwealth farms, 43 percent had a primary occupation other than farming, and 54 percent worked off the farm. In fact, 37 percent worked off the farm at least 200 days of the year.

Cattle and calves were the most common livestock, appearing on about half of farms - 25 percent of farms had beef cows and 17 percent had milk cows. Fewer than 10 percent of farms had each of the following: hogs and pigs (7 percent), sheep and lambs (6 percent), and layer chickens 20 weeks or older (9 percent).

As far as crops, 26 percent of farms grew corn for grain, 21 percent grew corn for silage, 9 percent grew wheat for grain, and 13 percent grew oats for grain.

The census identifies eight main crop commodity groups and eight livestock groups. Pennsylvania’s top sales were in milk and milk products, which accounted for one-third of all farm commodity sales. Poultry and eggs were second, accounting for 18 percent, followed by nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod (this category includes mushrooms) at 17 percent.

Less than one-quarter (23 percent) of farms employed hired labor: 9 percent hired just one worker and just 2 percent hired 10 or more workers. In total, farms employed 67,672 workers. Most farm workers were not employed year round; in fact, 61 percent worked less than 150 days. This may explain, at least in part, why the average farm laborer was paid $6,547 for the year.

The average age of a farmer was 53 years. Less than 10 percent were under age 35 and 22 percent were at least 65 years old. Nearly half were between the ages of 35 and 54.

Size of Pennsylvania Farms in Acres, 2002

Age of Pennsylvania Farmers, 2002

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Did You Know . . .
90 Percent of PA farms that have cropland, which covers two-thirds of all farmland.
20 Percent of PA farms that received government payments in 2002.
92 Percent of PA farms that are individually or family owned.
6 Percent of PA farms that are partnerships.
2 Percent of PA farms that are family held corporations.
10 Percent of PA farms where the principal operator is female.

Source: USDA 2002 Census of Agriculture

Whoops! In the September/October 2005 Did You Know, we reported that the combined road miles of all Pennsylvania boroughs would equal about one trip around the earth’s equator. The fact is, the combined road miles of 8,954 would only get you about one-third of the way around the earth.

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Just the Facts: Computers on the Farm
Pennsylvania farmers are continuing to embrace technology, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), which found that 55 percent of Pennsylvania farms have computer access and 53 percent owned or leased a computer in 2005. That’s a 5 percentage point increase since 2003, when 48 percent of Pennsylvania farmers had their own computers.

NASS conducts an annual Agricultural Survey each June, and since 1997, has included questions about computer access and use during odd years of the survey. The survey results are included in the Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report.

While computer access among Pennsylvania farms has increased, farms in most other states have higher rates of computer access. Farms in Oregon and Wyoming are the top computer users at 80 and 79 percent, respectively. Farms in the New England states (combined), Idaho, and Montana also have rates of at least 75 percent. Farms in Kentucky trail at 36 percent. Farms in Arizona/Nevada (combined), Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Missouri also have rates below 50 percent. Computer ownership rates among farms show similar national comparisons.

Internet access seems to go nearly hand-in-hand with computer access as 47 percent of Pennsylvania farms have Internet access. Of these, 68 percent connect through dial-up, 19 percent through DSL, and 8 percent through cable. The remainder uses other means or does not know the method.

Still, 8 percent of Pennsylvania farms have computers but no Internet access. Pennsylvania is in the middle of the pack for connecting through a method faster than dial-up. Fifty-four percent of New Jersey farms use a connection that is faster than dial-up. Only 14 percent of Indiana farms use a connection faster than dial-up.

Pennsylvania farmers are less likely to use computers for farm business than those in other states. About one in four (27 percent) farms use computers for farm business.

Eleven percent of Pennsylvania farmers buy agricultural inputs online and 7 percent conduct agricultural marketing activities online. In New England, 52 percent of farms use computers for farm business, while less than 25 percent of farmers use computers for farm business in Louisiana, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, and Wyoming.

Computer use by Pennsylvania farmers cannot be tracked over the long term because, through 2001, statistics about Pennsylvania and New Jersey were combined.

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