UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The novel coronavirus pandemic will not stop Penn State's 2020 Ag Progress Days — scheduled for Aug. 9-12 — from providing educational activities, research tours and commercial interactions, even as the event shifts to a virtual format due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to organizers in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
"The global pandemic has presented serious challenges to our agricultural producers, our food supply chains, our businesses, our livelihoods and our health," said Jesse Darlington, Ag Progress Days manager. "But as Pennsylvania's land-grant university, it is Penn State's mission to help our state's farmers, families and communities to navigate these challenges, whether we all can be together in one place or not."
Darlington noted that instead of attending in-person events on the show grounds at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, visitors to the Ag Progress Days website — at http://apd.psu.edu — will find live, interactive webinars, virtual tours of the research center, and video presentations highlighting some of the latest research, educational programs, and best practices in agriculture, natural resources, health and nutrition, and other topics.
"Website visitors also can connect with hundreds of our commercial exhibitors to learn about the goods and services they offer and, in some cases, view product demonstration videos and arrange virtual meetings with company representatives," he said.
The "Marketplace" section of the website features registered Ag Progress Days vendors, offering enhanced exhibitor profiles and the opportunity for attendees to connect with participating vendors virtually. From a map of exhibitor booth space or from the exhibitor list, visitors can find contact information, product images, show specials, product videos and other information.
Over the four-day period, at least 46 live webinars will provide virtual attendees with valuable and engaging content addressing a wide range of topics. Viewers watching the live webinars will be able to ask questions of the presenters, and the sessions will be recorded for future viewing. The webinars are free, but registration is required.
The interactive sessions will cover issues related to dairy, livestock and poultry production and animal health; business management; field and forage crop production; nutrient management; food demonstrations with healthy recipes; food safety and home food preservation; forestry and wildlife; household and landscape pest management; recommendations for beginning farmers; drinking water quality and pond management; and other topics.
Another live, online session — hosted by Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, and Russell Redding, Pennsylvania secretary of agriculture — will take the form of a town hall meeting. The topic of the hour-long forum, to be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 10, will be the impact of COVID-19 on Pennsylvania agriculture, lessons learned and next steps in recovering from the pandemic. A link to register to view the town hall can be found on the Ag Progress Days website.
Among the on-demand attractions of the online expo are virtual tours of the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center — curated by Penn State's Pasto Agricultural Museum, which is located at the center — giving viewers a glimpse of some of the field studies conducted at the 2,000-acre facility.
Virtual tour locations will feature American Chestnut Foundation efforts to restore the American chestnut to Eastern forests; experiments on vegetable and small-fruit production in high tunnels; Penn State's Deer Research Center; research on stream riparian buffers; best practices for woodlot management; and dairy beef feedlot management.
In addition, the Pasto Museum will highlight its "I Remember Ag Progress Days" oral history project. Website visitors will be able to hear friends of the museum and former Penn State faculty members and extension educators discuss their memories of past events and how Ag Progress Days has evolved over the last half-century.
Many other on-demand videos and recorded webinars also will be available from the website, featuring topics typically covered at Ag Progress Days, including home gardening, invasive species such as spotted lanternfly, youth activities, and more.
"We hope Ag Progress Days attendees enjoy this online content, which will be available long after the 'show dates' of Aug. 9-12, and that they find it interesting and valuable enough that they return often to explore the website to the fullest," Darlington said. "We also encourage everyone to mark Aug. 10-12, 2021, on their calendars, when we plan to return to Rock Springs for Ag Progress Days 2021."