Friday marks the 30th anniversary of the start of Susquehanna County Ag Day, the annual gathering of farmers, gardeners and others looking forward to the first day of Spring.
Held each year at the Elk Lake High School, the event draws hundreds looking to network over trending agricultural issues, meet and greet familiar faces unseen over the winter months and sample the delicious pies, ice creams and cheeses sold to help support the Susquehanna County 4-H and Dairy Princess Program. The event opens at 10 a.m. and runs all day until 3 p.m. Admission is free.
Originally called Dairy Day, Ag Day also features local vendors, representatives from the natural gas industry and agricultural educators. As many as 500 or 600 visitors have attended in past years, many interested in seeing how many of the over 20 varieties of ice cream they can sample.
Evie Goff, a longtime Ag Day Committee member and former Penn State Extension employee, has been there from the start.
“The purpose was to get businesses in as vendors where people could speak with a variety of people all in one place at the same time,” Goff said.
Besides many others, officials from the state Fish and Boat and Game Commissions will work booths at the event. Visitors may also attend workshops on topics such as the Spotted Lanternfly and Manure Management and No-Till Cover Crops. Other booths will be worked by officials from local community groups and health care organizations.
Over the years Dairy Day eventually changed its name over to Ag Day to reflect the decline in the number of dairy farms in the county,
“Dairying has declined in our county significantly since this began. There are so many other aspects of agriculture involved,” Goff noted.
“I think people at this time of year just like to get out and see people,” she said.
According to statistics provided by the Northeastern Regional Field Office of the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of dairy cows in Susquehanna County has dropped since the first Ag Day in 1990 from 18,700 way down to 8,100 in 2018 -- a whopping 56.6 per cent.
But J. Craig Williams, the local dairy agent with Penn State Extension, said that while the number of cows and cow farms has dropped, milk production nationally has actually gone up 12 per cent over the past ten years.
“More milk per cow and a level milk demand means that less cows are needed to supply that demand,” Williams said.
Susquehanna County Commissioner Elizabeth Arnold has attended Ag Day for years. The former 4-H member and Dairy Princess grew up on her father’s dairy farm in Dimock Twp.
“It’s a really awesome event for our farmers,” Arnold said. “It’s a day out for our farmers to get out and see everyone,” she said.
“I’m all about Ag Day,” Arnold said. “I think it’s a great day in our county.”