Mar 13, 2023
Pennsylvania event brings them back

Rebounding from pandemic numbers, the 2023 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey, Pennsylvania, experienced high attendance.

Up to 2,250 growers, academics, exhibitors and others packed the show from Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. While 2023 attendance is less than the record set in 2018, it is higher than last year’s 1,800, which was 75% of the pre-pandemic 2020 attendance, said William “Bill” Troxell, executive director of show co-sponsor Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association (PVGA). 

“This is more than what we were prior to the pandemic,” Troxell said.

The event draws out-of-state attendees, he said, with people from New York, New England, Ohio and other states regularly traveling to the show.

“It’s the breadth of the educational program,” Troxell said. “They just appreciate the quality of the program, the number of vendors and the facility.”

In its 46th year, the show was presented by PVGA and state horticulture associations and societies in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. 

Growers crowded the Hershey Lodge’s meeting rooms to hear researchers and Extension personnel discuss the latest in crop research. Representatives from Penn State, the University of Maryland, Rutgers, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Cornell covered a wide range of topics, including tree fruit, stone fruit, vegetables, cole crops, organics, high tunnels, soil health, cover crops, biocontrols, equipment technology and urban ag. 

Tom and Tammy Brown of Hilltop Harvest Farms in Wapakoneta, Ohio, who grow vegetables and melons in western Ohio, enjoy the knowledge the conference provides.

“This show covers all facets of produce management, whether fruit or vegetables,” Tom Brown said. “It’s geared to growers of all sizes. It’s a great show that’s well worth the eight-hour drive.”

Beloved grower remembered

Growers and university scientists whose research benefits the industry were recognized during a Jan. 31 banquet. In one of its highest honors, the State Horticulture Association of Pennsylvania posthumously honored Bruce Hollabaugh, of Hollabaugh Bros. Fruit Farm and Market in Biglerville, Pennsylvania, as Grower of the Year. Hollabaugh, 41, died in March 2022. ( for web linking)

Russell Redding, Pennsylvania’s longtime secretary of agriculture, worked closely with Hollabaugh and said he improved and influenced Pennsylvania’s modern apple plantings through an inquisitive nature and drive to seek the best equipment, technology, management and root systems.

“He constantly challenged his colleagues, Extension and research personnel to achieve meaningful results that ultimately helped the entire industry,” Redding said.

Returning to his family business after graduating from Penn State with horticulture and Spanish degrees, Hollabaugh challenged his family to diversify by growing blueberries and other small fruits.

“Over time, he became a highly skilled orchard manager who was always challenging his crew members to grow in their understanding of horticulture so they could not only understand what to do, but more importantly, why they were doing it,” Redding said.

Hollabaugh’s Spanish fluency gave him a lot of recognition in the local farmworker community.

“There are no sufficient words to capture a life cut short,” Redding said. “This is a reminder to all of you how fragile life is and how important it is to recognize each other’s accomplishments often, to look for the growth more than the challenges and to appreciate our shared strengths.” 

In accepting the award for his family, Brad Hollabaugh, Bruce’s father, said they deeply appreciate growers and industry members who not only interact with the family and farm, but also are Extension and research advocates.

“Thank you for honoring our son this way,” he said. “We always felt he was an award winner. I wish he were here tonight to accept this, as he was so deserving.” 

Research recognized

PVGA and the state horticulture association recognized Penn State scientists whose research aids fruit and vegetable growers. 

Beth Gugino

Beth Gugino, a Penn State professor of vegetable pathology, won PVGA’s 2023 annual award, which recognizes individuals who demonstrate noteworthy service records and dedication to the state’s vegetable, potato or berry growers.

Gugino focuses on technologies that can provide growers research-based information on pathogen biology, epidemiology and vegetable disease management through her work in integrated vegetable disease management, plant pathogen diagnosis, disease monitoring and forecasting and sustainable crop production. Her work with research faculty, Extension specialists and county educators developing integrated pest and crop management strategies helps Pennsylvania vegetable growers address important and emerging diseases, said PVGA president and award presenter Rita Resick, of Laurel Vista Farms in Somerset, Pennsylvania. 

James Schupp, a Penn State pomology professor, was lauded for his working with growers and others on root and dormant pruning, pruning automation, peach and apple rootstocks size controls, harvest assist platforms, mechanical and chemical thinners and fire blight-resistant pears. The horticulture association’s Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have made long-lasting contributions and consistently go beyond what is expected of them. 

“(Schupp) exemplifies those qualities, as he has always challenged himself and growers to see if they can do things more productively,” said award presenter Lee Showalter, grower services manager of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pennsylvania.

Of 2,250 in attendance, about 850 were registered with PVGA, 400 with the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, 160 with the New Jersey State Horticultural Society, 140 with the Maryland State Horticultural Society and 100 with the Virginia State Horticultural Society.  Additionally, 200 speakers, 100 guests and students and 300 exhibitor representatives attended.

— Doug Ohlemeier, assistant editor

Photo: The State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania posthumously awarded Bruce Hollabaugh of Hollabaugh Bros. Fruit Farm and Market the Grower of the Year. Pennsylvania Ag Secretary Russell Redding (left), presents the honor to Bruce’s father, Brad Hollabaugh. Bruce died in March 2022 at 41 years old. Photo: Doug Ohlemeier

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