Lawmakers Want to Upgrade General Assembly’s Web Site

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi

Do you visit the General Assembly’s web site to look up bills or get information on your senator or representative?    Over the past five years, upgrades to the site have increased public access to the legislative process. Now, lawmakers want to know how they can improve the user experience.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says they want the public’s input to make the site as advanced, intuitive and valuable as possible.

People can send their comments by social media, using the Twitter hashtag #PAGAwebideas, they can also send emails to Senator Pileggi or tweets ( or @SenatorPileggi), or they can do it the old fashioned way,  by telephone or postal service.  There will be a hearing on the topic on March 7th. Written testimony will also be accepted.

Senator Pileggi hopes to have most of the suggestions implemented by the start of the next fiscal year.

Putting the Showmanship in the PA Farm Show…

Friday is chock-full of dairy judging at the 96th Pennsylvania Farm Show.  While the state’s youth make it look easy to Farm Show visitors, dairy showmanship is actually hard work.  “They can be stubborn at times, but usually just by making some noises or getting their attention… they’ll usually go,” Stephanie Stahl of Somerset County says of maneuvering her dairy cows for the judges.

Working with Stephanie is Chelsea Berkebile of Somerset County, who stresses the importance of keeping your eyes on the judges at all time.  “You always want to move out of the way as they’re moving around, so they can see the animal at their best.”  Hopefully, all of the hard work they do with the animals at home will pay off in the arena.

Some dairy showmen are better than others, however.  “I’ve learned a full appreciation for those who raise the animal, and take care of the animal seven days a week,” says Columbia County State Rep. Dave Millard, a three-time participant in the Farm Show’s Legislative Dairy Showmanship Contest.  “I do my best at it, but I’ve never come away with a first, second or third place.”

State Rep. Mike Tobash of Berks and Schuylkill counties took home top honors in the 2012 legislative showcase.  Farm Show judges will wrap up their evaluations of hundreds of dairy cattle later this afternoon.  You’ll be able to look up the Supreme Champion, and check on all of the results at the Farm Show’s website.  The 96th Pennsylvania Farm Show will come to a close at 5pm Saturday. 

Farm Show, Cow, Milk

Kids can even try milking a cow at this Farm Show display.

What’s Old is New Again at the Farm Show

They first started pitching horseshoes at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in 1931.  Harold Clippinger of Cumberland County was tough to beat in the 1950s.  Clippinger got his start on his grandfather’s farm when he was just six years old.  “When they replaced the shoes on [the horses], then we took them, put stakes in the ground and pitched them back and forth.”  Today, Clippinger is still pitching at the age of 79. 

But for about 50 years he couldn’t compete at the Farm Show.  Nobody could.  Organizers pulled the plug on the Farm Show horseshoe pitching competition in 1957.  It returned in 2007, thanks to the hard work of people like Dick Scott of Cumberland County.  “The idea was to go back to the heritage of when horseshoe pitching and farming were together,” Scott says.  “Farmers used it as recreation, and they just thought we could bring that back.” 

82-year-old Ralph Hock eyes another ringer.

82-year-old Ralph Hock eyes another ringer.

For 82-year-old Ralph Hock of Franklin County, it keeps his mind and body sharp.  “It makes you want to try to get better all the time,” he says with a chuckle. 

But the reincarnation of the Farm Show Shootout has also sparked a whole new generation of horseshoe pitchers, like 13-year-old Emily Hatrick of Chester County.  The junior division champ is motivated by her goal to best her dad at horseshoes. 

Horseshoe pitchers are classified by their percentage of ringers.  “I’m a 10.2% average right now,” Emily says.  “I’m not sure where I’m headed but I’m hoping I can get up there sooner or later.”  Some Farm Show Shootout contestants are 75% ringers. 

Randy Ziders of Juniata County earned the top spot in the men’s 40-foot division, and Glenn Burris of Westmoreland County finished first in the 30-foot mixed bracket.  Hundreds of Farm Show visitors also got to try their hand at horseshoe pitching in a special pit set up for the public. 

Task Force on Child Protection Prepares to Start Work

Ten members have been appointed to a task force that will review Pennsylvania’s child protection laws and procedures for reporting abuse.   David Heckler, the Bucks County District Attorney, will chair the Task Force on Child Protection.

The panel has been charged with reviewing the laws, practices, processes and procedures relating to Pennsylvania’s response to child abuse. Heckler says the resolution creating the task force calls for at least five meetings between now and September 30th, so he’s anxious to get staff in place and gather the members of the task force to start setting the agenda.  

Heckler says he’s impressed with the scope and depth of knowledge the task force members bring to this work.  He’s also looking forward to hearing from experts around the country.  He adds there will be hearings to get the public’s input as well.  The final report is due by November 30th.

Heckler, a former judge, says it’s important that the state create child protection laws that are realistic. He says such laws must place responsibilities and criminal burdens that the public and juries can support.

Heckler says they need to tap the very substantial expertise on the panel, throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, and then start reaching conclusions.

The members of the task force were appointed by the governor and legislation as outlined in House Resolution 522 and Senate Resolution 250.

 The four members appointed by the governor are:

  • David  Heckler, Bucks County District Attorney;
  • William Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation
  • Dr. Cindy W. Christian, M.D., director of Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Delilah Rumburg, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center


Members appointed by the Senate are:

  • Dr. Rachel Berger, member of Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Garrison Ipock Jr., executive director, The Glen Mills Schools, Glen Mills
  • Carol Hobbs-Picciotto, MHS, Intake Social Worker, City of Philadelphia


 Members appointed by the House are:

  • Jason Kutalakis, senior partner, Abom & Kutalakis LLP, Carlisle
  • Jackie Bernard, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Blair County
  • Hon. Arthur Grim, Senior Judge, Court of Common Pleas of Berks County


Ewe Gotta See this Farm Show Favorite

Farm Show crowds watched in amazement as teams of six sheared a sheep, spun its fleece into yarn and wove that yarn into a 78-inch shawl.  It all happens under a two and a half hour time limit.  “It’s the main stressor, especially when things start going wrong,” Jamie Rode of the Fort Freeland Flickers says of the time crunch. 

While teams are awarded bonus points based on speed, Abby Schrack of the Dream Weavers says time isn’t everything.  “You can come in last place even if you are the first one done,” she says. 

A team of judges is scrutinizing the teams on everything from the evenness of the shearing, to the uniformity of the yarn, to the complexity of the shawl design.  “I am astonished at the level of competition,” says second year judge Cynthia Baker of Lancaster County.  “I think almost every team was really beautiful.” 

Since sheep are normally shorn in the spring, Farm Show activities like this may put them outside of their comfort zone.  “Ours is going to be wearing a coat… until it grows back enough wool to cover its body,” Schrack says of her team’s Shetland sheep “Constance.” 

A mere three hours after the Small Arena crowd counted down start of the 33rd Sheep to Shawl Competition, Montour County-based Time Warp was named the 1st place team.  Friends Thru Fiber of Franklin and Adams counties earned second place honors. 

Farm Show, Sheep



Farm Show, Sheep


LCB Approves Price Increases on More Than 300 Items

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has approved requests from suppliers for higher prices.  That means the 18 month moratorium on price increases at state stores, due to the economic downturn,  is coming to an end. 

The Liquor Control Board voted to approve higher prices on 313 items requested by suppliers of those brands.  CEO Joe Conti says suppliers told them they were facing increased costs for raw product and transportation.

Conti says a “no” vote could have affected selection at state stores.  He says certain lines of product may have decided not to be offered in Pennsylvania.  He says while the board understands price is important, selection is also important. He says for most of the items facing price increases, there are comparable products that won’t increase in price.

Prices will increase on 271 items on February 1st. Prices will increase on the remaining 42 items on March 1st. By comparison, the system offers about 30 thousand different types of wine and liquor, with a variety of between 4 and 5 thousand offerings in most of the individual stores.

Conti says some popular brands are affected by the increases, including Crown Royal, Jack Daniels and Bacardi.

Inside the Farm Show’s Sale of Champions

The Grand Champion Junior Beef Steer fetched $10,500 at the Farm Show’s annual Sale of Champions.  Lindsay Upperman of Franklin County raised the two year old steer since birth.  She first noticed something special in ‘Stetson’ when he was just six months old.  “I just saw that he might actually have a little bit more, and just a little bit something different than what some of the other steers had.”  The winning bid on ‘Stetson’ came from Hoss’s Steak and Sea House, a long time supporter of the Farm Show’s Junior Livestock Sale. 

Lindsay Upperman will doubly benefit from this auction because she’s also a 2012 Farm Show Scholarship winner, and some of the auction proceeds are used to help fund the scholarship program.  Lindsay will be attending college in Kansas next year, and has her sights set on an advanced degree in genetics. 

26 Farm Show scholarships were awarded this year.  To date the Farm Show Scholarship Foundation has awarded $977,000 dollars in scholarships, and it’s expected to break the million dollar mark next year.  “All of these applicants are excellent scholars, are involved in their communities and are involved here participating in the Farm Show on an annual basis,” says Lori Connelly, a member of the Farm Show Scholarship Foundation selection committee. 

Another student on the receiving end of a $3,500 scholarship was Jacob Diamond of Fayette County.   “I’ve come to the Farm Show my whole live, ever since I was a baby,” Diamond tells us.  He’s currently attending Penn State Fayette and hopes to become a large animal veterinarian.  Diamond also showed the Farm Show’s Grand Champion Junior Market Goat, which went for $2,400 at Tuesday’s Sale of Champions.   

Agriculture Secretary George Greig tells us he’s impressed with both the quality of the youth coming out of the state’s FFA and 4-H programs.  “Without the youth, and the next generation coming on, agriculture would be out of business pretty quick.”

Apiary Products Create Farm Show Buzz

Producing honey is hard work for both the people and the bees, according to Charlie Vorisek of Crawford County, Vice President of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association.  “One pound of honey is representative of about two million flowers,” Vorisek says.  Beekeepers use a special machine to extract the honey from the wooden frames where bees build their hives.  “I describe it like a washing machine spin cycle… we spin it and the honey will fling out just like the water in your clothes.” 

PA Beekeepers are conducting honey extraction demonstrations all week long at the 96th Pennsylvania Farm Show.  A variety of displays in the Main Hall help people to understand the importance of pollination, and the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association booth is always buzzing with activity in the Farm Show’s PA Marketplace

That’s where consumers go to buy pure, raw, natural honey, according to beekeeper David Anderson of Lebanon County.  “Depending on the flower that the nectar came from to make the honey you can get clover honey, alfalfa honey, buckwheat honey, wildflower honey – and there are all different flavors”    

Farm Show, Bees, Honey

In this display, the queen is marked with a green dot.

Each hive is home to just one queen.  Her job is solely to lay eggs, as presenters told one demonstration crowd that the queen must lay 2,000 or more eggs a day for a hive to be productive. 

Farm Show judges awarded prizes in more than 40 categories of apiary products – everything from three pound chunks of comb honey, to honey quick breads and candies.  Pennsylvania is home to 2,500 registered beekeepers.  Many are commercial enterprises, but officials say most are hobby beekeepers.

The Battle for Bragging Rights at the Farm Show

Farm Show week in Harrisburg is about more than world famous milk shakes and baked potatoes – it’s about blue ribbons.  Awards are earned for everything from hay to heifers. 

Kendra Brown of Lebanon County showed “Diamond,” the grand champion shorthorn female.  “What’s really cool about winning this is that her mom won too,” Brown says.  While some shorthorns are bred for beef, Brown says she likes to show, and “Diamond” will be on Breezy Acres Farm forever. 

Over in the small arena, David Christian of Iowa had the task of judging 153 swine entries.  “We’ll look at how they move, how they walk, body proportions and so on,” Christian tells Radio PA.  The Supreme Champion gilt, which hails from York County, wound up selling for $2,500 over the weekend.   

The delicious judging takes place in the Farm Show’s Main Hall, where David Hively was lucky enough to taste dozens of competing maple syrup products.  “You want the good, sweet flavor,” Hively says.  “It should not in any way have a bitter taste to it.”  Hively says it takes about 45-gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

Farm Show, Maple Syrup

Laura Dengler of Crawford County won "premier exhibitor" for her maple syrup products.

The maple products, honey products, mushrooms, vegetables, apples and wine can all be found flanking the Farm Show butter sculpture.  Just a few feet away, in the Macalay Street Lobby, Larry Snyder of Mahantongo Valley Farms in Northumberland County walked away with three ribbons for his Christmas trees.  “You need real strong branching, symmetry in the tree, good leader growth and color,” Snyder explains.  “You want to pick the trees that have excellent color.” 

More judging will take place throughout the week at the 96th Pennsylvania Farm Show.  On deck Monday will be open beef cattle and junior market swine.

Pennsylvania Farm Show Butter Sculpture Honors Fairs & 4-H

    Every year, it marks the unofficial kickoff of the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and during the 8-day celebration of agriculture, it remains a centerpiece of the activities at the Farm Show Complex. As any loyal Pennsylvanian knows, it is known simply as “The Butter Sculpture.”

    State officials have unveiled this year’s creation, a work of sculptor Jim Victor of Conshohocken in Montgomery County. Victor began carving the nearly 1,000-pound work of art in mid-December. It depicts a 4-H member showing his prized calf at a county fair. The work is meant to be a tribute to the 4-H and the Pennsylvania Association of County Fairs, both of which are celebrating their 100th anniversaries this year. More than 5 million people attend Pennsylvania’s 113 county and local fairs each year and 125,000 youth are enrolled in 4-H.

    After the Farm Show ends, the butter will be sent to a dairy farm in Juniata County, where it will be put through a digester that will convert it into electricity.

    The 96th Pennsylvania Farm Show runs from tomorrow through Saturday, January 14th. Admission is free and parking is $10.