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Pennsylvania

Pair talks agriculture to community

CARLISLE — Last year, a farming family lost its silo. No one called the family to ask what they could do to help. Neighboring farmers just showed up and did what needed to be done, said Jason Nailor of Mechanicsburg.

“It happens like that a lot,” his wife, Sherisa, said. “It’s a testament to the profession and industry itself.”

It’s a testament to the Nailors’ love of the farming community and their efforts to promote it that earned them the 2012 Young Farmer and Rancher “Excellence in Ag” Award from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

“For us, it was an easy decision to get involved,” Sherisa said. “The thought of raising our kids in farming life was attractive.”

Though Jason grew up on a farm, Sherisa came to the farming community through high school agricultural science classes.

“That’s where I met Jason,” she said. “It was always his dream to have a dairy farm, so when we had the chance, that’s what we did.”

Jason operates a 100-cow dairy farm, where he grows 40 acres of corn and 25 acres of hay to feed his cows. He is active in the Cumberland County Farm Bureau, serving on the board of directors, Young Farmer and Rancher Committee and the Local Affairs Committee. Like Sherisa, he is active with the FFA Alumni.

Sherisa is an agricultural science teacher at Big Spring High School who worked to broaden the program and increase the number of students participating in FFA. In the past six years, enrollment in the agricultural science classes increased by 35 percent and FFA membership at the school nearly doubled.

She credits growth in the program to the variety of skills taught by its teachers. Students appreciate offerings that include mechanics, masonry, welding and biotechnology, among others.

“Once they’re hooked on agriculture, they’re hooked,” Sherisa said. “There’s so much out there that they don’t know that everything seems to spark their interest.”

Big Spring School District is largely rural but nationwide, this is becoming less of the case as students are further removed from farms that produce their food.

“I think that kids get involved in FFA for the leadership, and what they learn about agriculture and food supply is a secondary bonus,” Sherisa said.

Some students are the second, third or fourth generation removed from farming, she said. Many know the farm makes food but don’t understand the consequences of farmland decreasing as the population expands.

That’s where Jason’s work with the farm bureau comes in. Many of the meetings discuss ways to grow more food on less acreage, he said.

Agriculture remains Pennsylvania’s number one industry and Cumberland County has a strong base of young producers who want to do better than the generation before them, Sherisa said. They’re alert to what is happening in the legislature with farming issues.

Jason finds the mind-set of younger farmers broader and more accepting of technology that enables them to do twice as much as before.

One problem with attracting money to farming programs is that so many programs fall under the Department of Agriculture. The department regulates everything from dog registrations to puppy mills to gas pumps — even casinos.

“Everything is underfunded and understaffed,” Sherisa said. “Everyone wants a piece of the budget.”

Even if students don’t enter agriculture-related fields, they will become educated consumers, knowing the steps food takes from farm to table and understanding how the cost is determined.

“A lot of the last food (price) increases we saw were due to the fuel,” Jason said.


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