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Preventing a worker shortage on Pennsylvania farms

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Leaders in Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry are praising the State’s more than 1,000 farmers markets for creating jobs and boosting the economy.

But, a shortage of workers could soon mean a decline in one of the State’s leading money makers.

4th generation farmer, Jon Strite, is celebrating a 100 year-old family business.

“I grew up doing this, I never worked for anybody else, when you’re young you either take it or you don’t,” says Strite.

He says working at Strite’s Orchard, in Dauphin County is rewarding for his family and the consumers.

Strite says, “We’ve always dealt with the public, don’t deal with wholesaling, so 100% of our business is retail and even 4 years ago, we started CSA, we deliver boxes to homes throughout the area and they can come out and see our farm.”

Leaders in the State’s Department of Agriculture attribute economic stability to farmers markets’ success.

Strite explains why: “When someone spends money at my market, I’m probably spending it with someone else in the area.  All the money’s staying here, not traveling to California or some other place.”

As agriculture leaders applaud the industry’s success they also stress a shortage of workers over the next decade, due to a decline of generation farmers.

Department of Agriculture Press Secretary, Brandi Hunter-Davenport, “We’re looking at a stage where we’ve got the baby boomers who will be exiting the workforce and now who’s going to take up the charge for agriculture?

Leaders say the industry is responsible for 28,000 jobs.  But in the next 10 years, 43,000 of those jobs will be open.

Hunter-Davenport says, “We’re going to look at an initiative that will allow us to start addressing workforce shortages, engaging people who may not think of an agriculture career.”

On Strite’s farm, he suggests reaching out to the younger generations to sustain the industry in the future.

Strite says, “I always get hit up by people at local high schools, especially the science teachers because there are kids interested, they just don’t know how to go about finding a job.  We got to hold their hand a bit, but once they get going, kids are resilient, they know what they’re doing.”