The modern farm … Officials see how farming is changing
DUNBAR — The Fayette County Farm Bureau and local farmers showed area elected officials the conservation practices of the modern farm.
John Scott, regional director of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, said the purpose of Thursday’s tour of Fencil’s Farm along Eighty Acres Road in Dunbar Township was to show supervisors as well as representatives from Larry Roberts’ and Peter Daley’s offices, how agriculture is changing.
For example, the larger a farm becomes, a higher degree of regulations are needed for that farm.
One regulation on which the elected officials were educated was manure storage at the farm and how manure is not polluting the streams or the land.
What they showed to the supervisors and representatives was the Fencil Farm’s manure storage tank. The tank, installed two years ago, takes barn water, scrapped manure and other wash water through a gravity flow system, into a concrete structure that holds 600,000 gallons of material. It is transported out only twice a year to dramatically cut down on the smell that is normally offensive to neighbors.
Lower Tyrone Township Supervisor Luke Knapp has received calls complaining of smells from a farm in his area, and likes the idea of a manure storage tank that’s emptied and hauled away every six months.
Alvin Diamond, Fayette County Farm Bureau president, said the tour was to “showcase modern agriculture,” while staying within the required guidelines and regulations.
Diamond also stated that he hopes educated supervisors will decide not to pass ordinances that would prevent farmers from modernizing their farms to keep up with the times.
“The days of small country farms are done,” said Diamond. “It takes a large farm to support a family these days.”
There’s a misconception about large farms, Scott told the supervisors, adding that large farms are a minimal threat to the environment and get very little complaints because the regulations are followed.
For example, when Ray Fencil wanted to get the manure storage tank, Chris Rerko, a specialist and an agricultural conservation technician for the Pennsylvania Nutrient Management program, had to visit Fencil’s dairy farm to make sure it was eligible and then had to approve the plan and send it to a board of directors for approval.
Not only does the farmer have to go through the eligibility process, but, after being approved to hold a manure tank, must also keep records.
“It’s a thorough program with a lot to entail,” said Rerko.
“It’s not the same as it was 30 years ago,” said Scott, who added that milk has to be produced somewhere, so elected officials should decide to keep it in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture handed out fact sheets on modern farming in Pennsylvania. It included:
= 99.34 percent of farms are family owned
= 99.23 percent of acreage is family owned
= 51 percent of farms are less than 100 acres
= 39 percent of farms are less than 50 acres
= The United States population was 284,000,000 in October, 2002
= Pennsylvania has only 26,000 full-time farms
= The average Pa. farmer is 52.7 years old
= A dairy cow drinks about 30 to 40 gallons of water a day
= The average person uses 60 to 150 gallons of water a day
= There are 9,300 commercial dairies in the state
= The average 60-cow dairy farm on 85 acres provides more than 30 million gallons of net contribution to ground water per year