Kutztown Rotary Club hosted its 82nd annual Farmers Night Dinner at Kutztown Grange Feb. 21.
Rotary Club President Amy Sheller welcomed farmers, local, regional and even state Rotarians to the dinner, as well as Kutztown, Fleetwood, Brandywine Heights and Oley Valley community members, school administrators, teachers and FFA members.
“We have good food and fellowship,” said Sheller. “I hope you enjoy tonight as much as we enjoy hosting you.”
Kutztown Grange served a family-style dinner of turkey, beef, filling, corn, and beans, followed by pie.
“This is the night that we celebrate agriculture in our community,” said Kutztown Rotarian Bob Hobaugh to the crowd sitting family style in the Grange Hall. “Tonight is all about promoting and advocating agriculture. We’re going to speak up for agriculture. It’s an important thing that we do that.”
Noting the job and economic impact of agriculture in Berks County and across the state, Hobaugh said, “The most important thing to remember is agriculture creates a quality of life in our community, both in terms of the food we eat and the people we know and the lifestyle we enjoy. We have beautiful fields... that’s the beauty of the East Penn Valley and the agriculture has kept it open, so we’re very fortunate.”
Hobaugh said Berks County agriculture encompasses crops, dairy, beef, organic vegetables, organic milk, vineyards, fruit such as Asian pears in Kempton, mushroom growers and speciality items.
“Agriculture has expanded in this community,” said Hobaugh. “Agriculture has brought you this food and agriculture has made us this wonderful community in which we live.”
The featured speaker was Dr. MeeCee Baker, President and CEO of Versant Strategies, which advocates for rural and agricultural issues.
“I hope everyone here, when they go home, will be able to better advocate for agriculture across the Commonwealth. Tell their story and make a difference,” said Baker.
Baker began her career as a high school agriculture teacher, supervised Penn State student teachers, and then worked at the Department of Agriculture under the former Gov. Ed Rendell administration. Currently, she is president of a government relations firm for agriculture, otherwise known as a lobbying firm, said Baker.
“Every single day - doesn’t matter if you eat, sleep, drink - you need agriculture, the clothes you wear, the food you eat,” said Baker.
Rotary also recognized Rotary Students of the Month during the dinner: Oley Valley student Sarah Tathum, Kutztown student Jacquelin Carter, and Brandywine Heights student Jon Rothermel. They are all FFA members and talked about how their participation in FFA changed their lives and influenced their decisions for future careers.
“We enjoy having FFA here,” said Hobaugh. “They are the future of agriculture.”
Sen. Judy Schwank agreed.
“What is especially nice is that we have the FFA students here as well and they are just as much a part of this event as the farmers and the Rotary members,” said Schwank.
Schwank said Farmers Night is the big agriculture event of the year in Kutztown.
“I try to make it every year,” said Schwank. “Agriculture is extremely important right here where we are when you look around us in the townships, the farms, the preserved farms, farm markets, dairies, poultry operations. The bulk of agriculture in Berks County is in this region so it’s very important.”
In terms of economic development, Schwank said the dinner provides a connection between farmers and service club, as well as gives the community a chance to see people they don’t get to see everyday.
“It’s really a great night,” she said.
Farmers Night sponsors are Fleetwood Bank, Berks County Farm Bureau, Tompkins VIST Bank, Fulton Bank, Edward J. Hildenbrand Funeral Home, Inc. and Larry Biehl.
Rotary Club Farmers Night Committee members are Larry Biehl, Jean Boyer, Jim Herman, Nancy Hildenbrand, Bob Hobaugh, Amy Sheller, Reneé Sufrinko, Jim Springer and Reno Unger.