After proclaiming June as National Dairy Month, commissioners Don Myers, Jason Renshaw and Pat Fabian held a lengthy discussion about the current challenges local dairy farmers face with several local farmers on hand.
“It’s in my heart,” Goheenville-area resident Marlene Kammerdiener said of her personal ties with dairy. “All farmers are fighters — we never give up.”
Kammerdiener encouraged everyone to start or continue to use dairy in their diets, along with other fresh meats and produce that can be obtained in the local area from local farmers.
“We want to live from farm to table,” she said. “Not pharmacy to table.”
She also pointed out that Armstrong residents can get fresh milk at farms in Distant and Worthington.
Sarah Bowser Peterson and her family operate a dairy farm in Distant, and she told the commissioners that her family goes back five generations in dairy.
The family is working to open a milk processing facility at the farm, and she said she’s hopeful it will be up and running this year so that residents can buy milk and other products.
“We’re in the home stretch now,” she said of the project. “We want to continue to carry our dairy into the future.”
Kammerdiener said that with the number of dairy farms in the county dwindling through the years, it was refreshing to see someone younger like Peterson involved in the business.
“It’s nice to see a younger generation come into Armstrong County,” she said.
In addition to all the hurdles that dairy farms have had to face in recent years, Kammerdiener said recent cost increases for diesel fuel and fertilizer have had a profound impact on farmers.
“We are struggling,” she said. “But at the end of the day, we are very proud of what we do.”
She said she continues to promote milk and dairy products in schools, an effort that has been hampered by the pandemic the past couple of years. Regardless, she said it was vital to share dairy’s benefits with children and to show them the connection between what they eat and drink and the local farms that produce their food and milk.
“If you don’t have dairy farmers, you don’t have your pizza,” she said of the cheese needed to make pizza.
Also on hand at the June 2 meeting was Terry Rupp, the new president of the Armstrong County Farm Bureau who said he has seen many local farmers give up on dairy through the years due in large part to the volatility of milk prices. He explained that while the price of milk goes up and down, farmers only see the price of producing milk go up.
“Ag[riculture] is a big part of what this county is,” he said, adding that he was grateful that the county commissioners were acknowledging the trials and tribulations of farmers.
Renshaw, who operates a family farm in the southern part of the county, said that farming is no easy job.
“You have to adapt and overcome,” he said, noting that one of the biggest problems dairy farmers face is the market price set for milk. “Something’s got to give.”
Rupp said that in order to stay afloat, many local farmers have opted to grow their farms; however, that can get them into financial trouble that leads to bankruptcy and farm closure.
Growing up, Fabian said he remembered his family making weekly trips to a local dairy farm to get milk.
“It’s exciting to know Armstrong County will have a place to go to pick up milk,” he said of the facility coming to Distant.
Noting that few people work as hard as farmers, Myers said the commissioners would be happy to continue working with the county’s agricultural community to advance the industry.
The commissioners also proclaimed June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in the county.
“It’s sad to think about how many reports are not made,” Armstrong County Area Agency on Aging executive director Janet Talerico said, noting that for every case of elder abuse that is reported, an estimated 44 cases go unreported.
“We’ve seen a lot of financial abuse,” she said, pointing to scammers that prey on the elderly. And many times, she said, those who fall victim to the scams are too embarrassed to tell their families or report the incident to police.
Talerico also noted that anonymous reports of elder abuse can be made to her agency or Armstrong County’s HAVIN.
“If you think there’s something … call and give us a report of need,” she said.
The commissioners noted that the pandemic has led to an increase in elder abuse and scams.
“The pandemic caused even more isolation,” Talerico explained, noting that the county has a well trained and experienced team of investigators that can be called on to help.
Those needing to report elder abuse can call the AAA’s protective services hotline at 1-800-732-6618 or HAVIN’s hotline at 1-800-841-8881.
• The commissioners approved an option agreement between the county and the Armstrong Trails in relation to the trail acquiring the Kiskiminetas Junction Railroad in the southern part of the county. Officials said the county will act as a pass-through agency, with ownership first going to the county, and immediately being transferred to the trail organization.
The county has helped Armstrong Trails secure $3.5 million in federal transportation funding to acquire the 14-mile rail corridor, which will not only connect the Armstrong Trail with other trails in the area, but will close a gap in the larger Erie to Pittsburgh Trail.
• The commissioners awarded $5,000 in Marcellus Legacy funds to the Freeport International Baseball Invitational, as well as $1,000 to the Downtown Kittanning Revitalization Project and $1,200 for the Ford City Renaissance Committee Partnership.
• The agreement between the county and doctors Roderick Grooms, Paul Patterson and Louis Gaston was extended on a month-by-month basis after it is set to expire at the end of the this month. The doctors currently provide services at the county jail.