New Animal Science Students See Diverse Pennsylvania Agriculture

Posted: September 6, 2012

Thirty-nine freshmen and transfer students toured agricultural enterprises throughout south central Pennsylvania to view first hand the diversity of agriculture in the Commonwealth and learn about potential career opportunities.
Students and faculty visited Furnace Hill Holsteins in Lebanon County as part of the day-long tour.

Students and faculty visited Furnace Hill Holsteins in Lebanon County as part of the day-long tour.

Thirty-nine freshmen and transfer students from Penn State's Department of Animal Science enjoyed a day of education and exploration as they joined faculty for a tour of agricultural facilities in central Pennsylvania last week, learning about the diversity of Pennsylvania agriculture and meeting industry leaders.

The New Student Industry tour, now in its13th year, is held during the first week of classes and is a unique opportunity for students new to the University Park campus to get to know each other and professors in an informal setting.

Dr. Terry Etherton, Head of Animal Science, noted that the tour has become an important tradition in welcoming students new to the campus, giving them an overview of Pennsylvania agriculture while they learn about career opportunities.

Tour organizer Jana Peters, Animal Sciences Advising Coordinator, stressed the value of the tour as more and more students with non-farm backgrounds choose to study animal science.  She said, "Students gain knowledge of the industry, but also benefit from spending this day with their classmates and faculty members."  Peters said the interaction with successful professionals is also valuable, and she expressed deep appreciation to the time and effort they give in opening their facilities and talking candidly with the students.

Joshua Cassar, freshman, Lansdale, said the tour of Bell & Evans confirmed his desire to work in some aspect of the poultry industry - indeed, he left the plant with an internship application in hand. He called the tour "eye-opening," and added that he was very impressed with the new technology employed in the processing and packaging of poultry. He added, "The whole tour was beneficial - I learned a lot. And it was a great opportunity to get to know fellow students - I made a lot of great friends."

For freshman Cheyenne Gilmore-Derry, New Stanton, the tour gave a broader perspective on potential careers in the field of animal science. "I am so happy I went on the tour - I loved it. I have had an interest in equine science, but it was really interesting to see the poultry processing, the dairy farm and the zoo. I was also happy to get to know other students whom I now recognize on campus." She noted that she is looking forward to becoming involved in student activities as a result of learning more about the opportunities.

Junior transfer student Andrew Calderwood, Craftsbury, VT, said the tour offered a well-rounded view of Pennsylvania agriculture. He particularly enjoyed the opportunity to see Furnace Hill Holsteins and Bell & Evans, noting that all those on the tour were impressed with the poultry plant.  He said, "The tour definitely introduced me to new people and I got to know other students better. I'm glad it was scheduled early in the semester."

Tour hosts included:

* Equine Industry: Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association (CATRA), Grantville, is a nonprofit organization providing therapeutic horseback riding to people with disabilities.  Run completely by volunteers, the program benefits over 100 riders in lessons each week, each of whom requires from one to four volunteer assistants. CATRA houses 30 horses, and houses a variety of other livestock that offers the opportunity for a small animal therapy program. It is operated by Ben and Shirley Nolt who offered a broad perspective on careers in the equine industry.

* Poultry: Farmers Pride - Bell & Evans, Fredericksburg, has been providing the highest quality poultry since the 1890's. They are a leading producer of organic chicken and all natural chicken raised without antibiotics on an all-vegetable diet in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. They use the latest technology to process the 850,000 chickens harvested each week, grown by 125 growers. The plant employs 1,000 people, and the company's motto is, Families Feeding Families since the 1890's.

* Dairy: Furnace Hill Holsteins, Lebanon, owned by Joel and Chrissy Krall. Krall is a '06 animal sciences graduate. They milk 130 cows with a rolling herd average of 33,500 lbs. of milk, 1,1,00 fat and 1,000 protein. They credit their growth to consistently high quality forages, cow comfort - mostly with sand bedding, use of gender selected semen, use of state and approved technologies. They invest in genetics as an alternative source of income, and use genomics technology to assess an animal's genetic value when a calf is just a few months old. They attribute their success to their intentional attention to detail and to working together as a team.

* Zoo Industry: Zoo America at Hershey Park, home to over 200 animals from five regions of North America. Students interacted with naturalists and had the opportunity to take a "behind the scenes" look at the care of the animals, including a tour of the medical building. Laura Schiavo, '09 animal sciences graduate, hosted the group.

Lunch was sponsored by Farmer's Pride-Bell & Evans at the Lebanon County Cooperative Extension office in Lebanon. Admission to the zoo was supported by The Hershey Company.

Two veterinarians offered their views on their paths to becoming veterinarians, and answered student questions. Dr. Meghan Myers, V.M.D, a 2006 graduate of Penn State animal sciences who then attended UPenn vet school, is a small animal vet at the Veterinary Medical Center of Lebanon. Dr. Joseph S. Bender, D.V.M., M.S., graduated from Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, and is a food animal vet who works for Agricultural Veterinary Associates, Brickerville.