PA Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding recently kicked off an Ag Workforce Tour during a visit to Pequea Valley High School in Kinzers, PA, and farms in Chester and Lancaster counties. The tour celebrates the agriculture jobs that will be available post-graduation and Pennsylvania’s programs preparing them for these in-demand, rewarding careers.
“It’s not a surprise that Pennsylvania has the highest percentage of agricultural producers under 35 years old in the nation,” said Redding. “You can’t feed the world without first nourishing young minds. That starts with solid agriculture education that inspires students to apply their interests in a field that has plentiful opportunities for meaningful, rewarding careers, then connecting them with those opportunities through hands-on experiences in the classroom and in learn-while-you-earn apprenticeships.”
At Pequea Valley High School in Kinzers, he toured a hands-on, award-winning program with classes in ag mechanics, animal science, plant science, food science, and environmental science.
Then at the creamery at Birchrun Hill Farm in Chester Springs, the tour demonstrated sustainable crop production and innovative, processing supported by training through AgConnect Industry Partnerships.
Pennsylvania’s $132.5 billion agriculture industry fuels more than 593,000 jobs across the commonwealth, paying nearly $33 billion in wages each year. As the industry innovates, and current workers retire, new opportunities are continually available, with jobs ranging from farm managers to high-tech equipment mechanics, and from field biologists to entomologists to veterinarians. All must be equipped to adapt to changing consumer needs, new technology, and climate challenges.
Through the Commission for Agriculture Education Excellence, the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Education have produced a comprehensive agricultural education report for schools across the commonwealth. In coordination with the Departments of Agriculture and Education, the 15-member commission is charged developing a statewide plan for agricultural education. In addition to the commission, the Wolf Administration invests in future generations of agriculturalists through Pennsylvania Farm Bill programs, including the Ag & Youth Grant Program, Farm to School Program, and Farm Vitality Grant Program.
“During our first Ag Workforce Week, we honor the individuals and families involved in agriculture throughout the state and also the programs that help support the industry,” Redding continued. “Programs like Industry Partnerships and state registered apprenticeship programs are critical to building stronger, more competitive industry through training, networking, recruitment, and collaboration – taking careers in ag to the next level.”
At one point, Pennsylvania anticipated a workforce deficit of 75,000 workers as farmers and laborers retire and new technology-based positions become available. This concern was addressed by creating and funding agriculture education opportunities through the PA Farm Bill and supporting agricultural apprenticeships that are preparing the next generation of agriculture and food workers. Also, as part of the PAsmart initiative, seven state-certified agriculture apprenticeships, two pre-apprenticeships were created.
Farmworkers are the backbone of the agricultural industry. Learn about Pennsylvania’s farmworker data through this new tool from the Department of Agriculture, Team Pennsylvania, and Econsult. Data from this tool are intended to help guide policy decisions and also inform diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts of the department.
To learn more about ag workforce development and related programs, visit the department’s website.