Pennsylvania Farm Bureau salutes Wolff, Steele



Robert Steele (left), the former Dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences,receives the prestigious Barn Raiser Award from Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) President Carl Shaffer. To see more photos from the annual meeting, please scroll down.

HERSHEY, Pa. — Pennsylvania Farm Bureau presented former state agriculture secretary Dennis Wolff and former dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences Robert Steele with Barn Raiser Awards to recognize their years of public service to the agricultural community.

The awards were presented during the farm group’s annual meeting Nov. 16-18 in Hershey.


Wolff served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture for more than six years, before leaving the post in August. His tenure resulted in major accomplishments, including the creation of programs designed to improve the agriculture industry and legislation to protect farmers and rural communities.

Wolff, a Columbia County dairy farmer, was named a Master Farmer in 1994 for his outstanding work in the agriculture. After leaving PDA, Wolff became a partner with Versant Strategies of Harrisburg.


Robert Steele served as dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences for a dozen years, before stepping down from the post earlier this year.

Under his leadership, Penn State was able to maintain and strengthen research and cooperative extension programs.

After leaving as dean, Steele decided to remain at Penn State, joining the college’s faculty as a tenured professor in the Department of Food Science.

Other awards

Richard and Nellie Crawford, of Juniata County, received the 2009 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.

The Crawfords began farming more than six decades ago, when they started Fort Bingham Farm with only 12 cows. The Crawfords still farm, operating a 120-cow dairy that they run with their son, Frank, and grandson, Evan Saylor.

Some of Richard’s accomplishments include developing Agricultural Security Areas in townships throughout Juniata County, serving as president of the Ag Land Preservation Board and acting as chair of the Soil Conservation Board.

Nellie’s accomplishments included serving on the Juniata County Safety Coalition and the county Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee. She also served as a member of the Child and Youth Advisory Board, the Juniata County Extension Board and as a 4-H leader for many years.

Harold Ely, of Susquehanna County, received the 2009 Distinguished Local Affairs Leader Award.

Ely has been involved with Farm Bureau for 55 years, active on both the local and statewide levels. As president of the Pennsylvania Council of Farm Organizations, he was instrumental in bringing together dairy farm cooperatives and farm organizations to support legislation that created the Milk Producers’ Security Fund.

The 91-year-old Ely also spent 18 years working for Dairylea and provided testimony that helped defeat an effort to abolish the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board.

Young farmer awards

Michael and Katie Flinchbaugh of York County won the 2009 Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award.

Michael Flinchbaugh is part of a diverse family farm operation near Hellam, York County, that involves his parents, a brother and a sister. The farm includes 1,400 acres of cash grain crops, a contract hog finishing operation and a 20-acre orchard which supplies peaches, apples and other fruit to the family farm market.

Off the farm, Michael is treasurer of the York County Conservation District board and is a founding member of the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education. In addition, he gets involved when needed as an “Ag Communicator” for the York County Farm Bureau.

Meanwhile, Katie works full-time off the farm, but provides help at the farm market

This year’s other finalist was Josh Bishop of Bucks County, who runs a 450-acre registered Holstein dairy farm in partnership with his father.

The Achievement Award winner receives $500 from Dodge, use of a tractor from Case IH, plus registration and lodging at PFB’s YF&R Leadership Conference in 2010.

The winner will also travel to Seattle, to compete for national honors during American Farm Bureau Federation’s 91th annual meeting in January.

Discussion meet

Maria Sipler, of Mohnton, Berks County, won the YF&R Discussion Meet, outperforming seven other participants.

Sipler operates an alpaca farm, where wool from the animals is sold for clothing and other material. Sipler also is the operations manager for four locations of Hoover Inc., a Case I-H dealership.

The discussion meet contestants were put in situations where they had to analyze agricultural problems and decide on solutions that best meet their needs.

Sipler receives $500 from Dodge, $250 worth of vouchers from Choice Hotels, lodging and registration for PFB’s 2010 YF&R Leadership Conference and an expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting.

A second discussion meet competition took place among PFB’s Collegiate Farm Bureau. Those winners were Lisa Rankin and Sarah Wickard.

Excellence in Ag

Carissa Itle Westrick of Cambria County received the 2009 Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Ag Award.

Itle Westrick works as director of marketing at her family’s Vale Wood Farms in Cambria County. Each year, she hosts about 4,000 school students on tours of the dairy operation and also participates in other agritainment events, such as hayride tours on the farm.

Before working at the family-owned dairy operation, Itle Westrick worked as director of environment programs for the National Milk Producers Federation and currently acts as a dairy spokesperson for the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association.

As the state winner, Itle Westrick receives $500 from Dodge, $250 in vouchers at Choice Hotels, lodging and registration for the state YF&R Leadership conference and an expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau’s annual meeting.

More photos from the Pa. Farm Bureau annual meeting:

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