Mar 15, 2019
Harper named interim director of Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center

Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has named Jayson Harper, professor of agricultural economics, as interim director of the Fruit Research and Extension Center, effective March 1.

In addition to conducting his ongoing extension and research programs in tree-fruit economics, Harper, as director, will oversee all personnel and financial activities while providing and communicating a strategic vision for the center.

Jayson Harper

He succeeds James Schupp, professor of pomology, who has led the center since 2004. Schupp is stepping down to resume his research program at the center on a full-time basis.

Located in Biglerville, Adams County, in the heart of Pennsylvania’s tree-fruit region, the Fruit Research and Extension Center (FREC) is an important resource for the state’s $84 million fruit industry. With support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the fruit industry and other sources, the center creates science-based knowledge and innovative solutions that help keep the industry strong and viable. Methods and recommendations generated from research are disseminated through Penn State Extension programs.

With continuous challenges from invasive species, plant diseases, climate change, labor shortages, and other issues, producers need the information that land-grant research and extension programs can provide, Harper noted. “The Fruit Research and Extension Center is an excellent example of the collaborative work that can be done when research, extension, and industry focus on real-world problems,” he said. “I want to help continue that tradition while I serve as FREC director.”

Harper joined the College of Agricultural Sciences faculty in 1989. His research in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education has centered on risk management and crop-production economics. He has studied various economic aspects of horticultural and agronomic crops, including the economic impact of invasive species, alternative peach and apple production systems, mechanical harvesters, fruit quality, pesticide selection criteria, and crop insurance.

Under Schupp’s leadership of FREC, a number of notable accomplishments helped to elevate the research and extension programs conducted at the facility. In 2018, he oversaw the center’s centennial celebration, which brought together growers, industry stakeholders, extension educators and researchers in a day of tours and sessions on the latest specialty crop research.

In 2017, two new agricultural engineering positions focusing on specialty crops were added to the faculty. During Schupp’s 15 years as director, the center also expanded physically with the acquisition of an adjacent 45-acre farm and the construction of new graduate student housing with support from the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania.

“Throughout his tenure as director, Jim Schupp has done an outstanding job of cultivating important relationships with industry and guiding the center’s programs, and we’re grateful for his leadership,” said Gary Thompson, College of Agricultural Sciences associate dean for research and graduate education. “Going forward, Jay Harper’s expertise positions him well to build on these efforts, which are needed to help sustain the fruit industry as a key driver of the agricultural economy in the state and region.”





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