AgMap: Promoting America's Agriculture


Web Site Links Farms, Customers

Jane Haseldine - Centre Daily Times

7/2/2002

STATE COLLEGE - Finding an organic pumpkin or a pick-your-own strawberry farm is now just a few clicks away.

Penn State has developed an interactive Web site to promote agriculture in the state. Known as AgMap, the Internet site provides consumers a list of farms, what they grow, contact information and locator maps.

This sort of thing can really have a positive impact on a smaller family farm that doesn't have the advantage of dollars that larger farms have.

"Many Pennsylvanians don't even realize what is being grown within a few miles of their homes," said Rick Day, AgMap project director and associate professor of soil science.

AgMap has 19 Centre County listings, ranging from pig and alpaca farms to pumpkin patches and strawberry fields. The site has more than 500 listings statewide.

Day hopes the site, launched in February, will eventually grow to 30,000 listings, the approximate numbers of farms in the stae.

AgMap's purpose is to showcase and build profitability for the state's agriculture industry, which pulled in $4 billion in cash receipts last year.

"The main purpose really is to provide a direct marketing tool for agriculture businesses in Pennsylvania. Direct marketing increases profitablity," Day said.

The idea is Day's brainchild. Penn State's Land Analysis Lab and the cooperative extension GIS program maintains the site. It's partially funded by the state Department of Agriculture.

It's free, and it's exposure," said Michael Byers, owner of Demeter's Garden in Potters Mill.

Byers isn't certain if AgMap has helped his organic raspberry, strawberry, and gooseberry business yet. But the potential for more profits is there, he said.

"It does seem like such a good idea," Byers said. "It gives a way for people to locate producers."

Internet surfers can look up farms by county, type of business, or products and services sold. AgMap will also calculate the distance and provide a map on how to get to the desired location.

AgMap is not only a means to look up where to buy local Yukon Gold potatoes. It also lists agricultural services for farmers, such as an electrical company that specializes in wiring barns or company that makes soft water for mulch.

"Local farmers may not be aware that the resources they need are available in the next county," Day said. "And, area businesses and consumers might not know that what they need is available to them locally."

The site also provides contacts for farmers with questions about the Land Analysis Laboratory, a research, extension and teaching facility at Penn State.

"AgMap can also be used as market analysis, to determine locations of competitors and to find voids in services where new businesses might be successful," Day said.

If a plant or animal disease breaks out, producers can find similar farms and find out how they are dealing with the problem.

Larry Kuhns of Kuhns Tree Farm in Centre Hall got his business on AgMap recently, and he hopes it will help sales during the holiday season this year.

"Any exposure helps. And this sort of thing can really have a positive impact on a smaller family farm that doesn't have the advantage of dollars that larger farms have," Kuhns said.

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