Agriculture Awareness and Appreciation Award
Ginger D. Fenton
Dairy Extension Educator
Penn State Extension
1 Dairy Extension Educator, Penn State Extension, Mercer, PA, 16137
2 , Mercer County Ag Development Council, Mercer, PA, 16137
3 , , Mercer, PA, 16137
Mercer County is situated along the Interstate-80 corridor in Western Pennsylvania and has a diverse agricultural infrastructure and strong supporting industry with a mixture of livestock, crops, horticulture, and timber. Approximately one-third of the 460,000 acres in the county comprises farms. Forages, grain, dairy, and beef cattle represent the largest marketed values. No school districts in the county currently have agricultural vocational programs.
The Mercer County Agricultural Development Council (ADC) is charged with promoting agricultural development and rural conservation by providing programs to increase productivity and profitability for producers and educating consumers. Previously, the ADC participated in holiday season parades with lighted tractors and farm implement entries. These events increased visibility of agriculture, promoted products, and demonstrated an appreciation of the size of combines and tractors.
COVID-19 forced the educational efforts of the ADC to change due to state-mandated restrictions. In response, a parade featuring lighted tractors, combines, semis, log trucks, and other ag equipment where the cars could drive-thru was hosted at a fairground. The Tractors & Tinsel Parade was held on December 5, 2020. Entries from 55 ag businesses and farms along with 4 volunteer fire departments lit up the route. An FM transmitter allowed announcers to read write-ups about the farms and businesses highlighting agricultural facts reaching attendees in their cars. Bags containing promotional materials, recipes, chocolate milk, and string cheese were distributed. The educator planned and facilitated meetings, communicated with the participants, worked with the media, entered a display, and made social media posts.
Results and Evaluation
Estimates were that 1500-2000 vehicles, many filled with families, circled the track. The event lasted 2 hours longer than scheduled. In place of admission, more than 5000 pounds of canned good donations were collected for the local food bank. One post thanking the participants reached 5,200 on the ADC’s Facebook page. Several articles were printed in local papers. In a challenging year, this event was a demonstration of goodwill from farmers to their community and was a positive reflection on Mercer County agriculture.