The Kutztown Rotary Club celebrated the agricultural community at its 83rd Farmers Night Dinner, featuring an agriculture update by Sen. Judy Schwank, recognition of FFA students and entertainment by Dave Kline.
“We’re celebrating the agricultural community which is a big part of our economy and certainly a big part of our culture,” said Rotarian Robert Hobaugh. “This is the 25th year that I’ve chaired Farmers Night and I’m delighted to say that we have 160 people here tonight. I’m not saying why that is but I know that we’ve brought in new farmers. We’re looking for new farmers all the time. The other thing is we have Dave Kline performing so maybe Dave is bringing them in.”
“This is the biggest crowd that we’ve had a really long time. It’s great,” said Rotarian Renee Sufrinko.
Held at Kutztown Grange on Feb. 19, Kutztown Rotary Club President Kurt Rohrbach welcomed the crowd seated at long tables. Kutztown Grange served a family-style dinner of ham, turkey, beans, corn, and potato filling.
His favorite part of the night is getting the farming community together for food and fellowship and to say, “Thank you.” He hopes everyone gains “an appreciation for farming and how important it is to our economy.”
“Rotary has five avenues of service and vocation is one of the five so we admire people that are the best at what they do. Farmers in this country are the best in the world,” he said.
Attendees included event sponsors, FFA, educators, Rotarians from Kutztown, Fleetwood and Hamburg clubs, and farmers from various fields of agriculture from bees to crop farming.
“It really is truly an honor for the Kutztown Rotary Club to host you all,” said Kutztown Rotarian Amy Sheller, District Rotary Assistant Governor. “Rotary brings together neighbors, friends and leaders who share the core value of service above self. Rotary connects businesses, community leaders and provides a platform for us to create positive change in our community and also around the world. Rotarians are truly people of action.”
Kutztown Rotary supports youth, hunger projects, international projects and many local service projects. Their largest fundraiser is the Taste of Kutztown Beer and Wine Festival, held in June, the same day as Fleetwood Rotary’s largest fundraiser, The Show of Wheels. Sheller encouraged everyone to attend both events.
“I love being a part of helping to support the work that you do,” said Schwank, who serves as chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “I am so pleased that you would have an event like this to celebrate farmers for so many years. Rotarians, it’s a wonderful thing that you’re doing. Farmers, you’re feeding us and supporting us. Thank you so much.”
Giving an update on the state Farm Bill, Schwank said, “We’ve already made $5 million in dairy investment grants for research and development, for value added processing and marketing grants.”
Giving examples, Schwank said a cheese maker in Oley is expanding her line and Way-Har Farms in Bernville will start to make fresh gourmet cheeses.
“I’m excited about what this is helping us to do in terms of promoting our dairy industry,” she said.
Also, for poultry and animal science, $2 million were put into business planning and succession grants.
The Spotted Lanternfly, Schwank said, “We’re not out of the vineyard yet… It’s moving along but we haven’t eradicated it.”
The biggest problem is for vineyards because Spotted Lanternfly damage generally means those vines do not survive the winter.
Schwank also applauded the Bureau of Food Safety for clarifying Food and Drug Administration requirements regarding labels on whole milk.
“Milk processors can now put on their whole milk 97 percent fat free,” said Schwank. “A dairy farmer encouraged them to look at this as a possibility. To me, that has a lot of power in saying to consumers, this is a wholesome food, 97 percent fat free.”
Discussing concerns regarding aging farmers, Schwank said, “We have to plan for how we pass farms on to future generations, so we’re working on that, too.”
Kutztown and Fleetwood Rotary clubs recognized FFA members as Students of the Month.
Kutztown senior Owen Stemko is president of Kutztown FFA and earned his Keystone Degree. Stemko works as a dental assistant in Blandon and milks cows at a dairy farm in Topton. He is working on his dental assistant certification and participates in the co-op program. He plans to attend the nursing program at Reading Hospital School of Sciences, aspiring to become a trauma nurse or ICU nurse.
Brandywine Heights senior Darryl Berger thanked his uncle and great uncle for the opportunity to milk cows on their farm for the past four years.
“I love agriculture. I’ve always enjoyed it since I was young,” he said.
A BCTC student in the building and construction program, Berger aspires to enter the construction field to build houses.
Oley Valley senior Paige Rohrbach served two years as Oley Valley FFA treasurer, is currently FFA student advisor and earned her Keystone Degree.
“I would have never thought that when I first became an FFA member my freshman year that I would gain all of the experience, opportunities and knowledge that I have now,” she said.
Rohrbach plans to attend Penn State to study agricultural and extension education with a minor in wildlife and fisheries science. She aspires to become an agricultural educator, FFA advisor or work for the Game Commission as a wildlife educator.
Farmers Night concluded with a performance by Dave Kline, followed by Schwank meeting with FFA students.
Thanking the Farmers Night Committee, Rotarian Bonnie DeLong said, “It really does take a village.”
The event committee consisted of DeLong, Marie DeFilipps, Bob Hobaugh, Nancy Hildenbrand, Melissa Kirk, Kurt Rohrbach, Amy Sheller, Jim Springer, Renee Sufrinko, and Connie Werley.
Event sponsors were Fleetwood Bank, Berks Farm Bureau, Fulton Bank, Tompkins VIST Bank, Spotts Insurance Group Inc., Albright’s Feed Mill, and Edward J. Hildenbrand Funeral Home, Inc.