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In a stride towards cultivating innovation in agriculture, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is delighted to announce the award of a $7,416 grant from the Pennsylvania Farm Bill Agriculture & Youth Grant Program. These funds will be directed towards cultivating talent and advancing technology in agriculture, which aligns with Harrisburg University’s commitment to fostering cutting-edge technological solutions in the rapidly evolving agricultural landscape.

The grant, part of a statewide initiative spearheaded by Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, underscores a collective commitment to preparing the next generation for success in the agriculture industry. Redding emphasized the importance of encouraging students to join the next wave of agricultural problem-solvers.  “To meet increasingly complex challenges tied to climate and marketplace changes, and rapidly evolving technology, Pennsylvania’s agriculture employers need innovative problem-solvers,” stated Secretary Redding. “These grants feed the hungry minds of those who will feed us tomorrow.”

Modern agriculture is more dynamic, complex, and challenging than it’s ever been, and the field needs equally formidable talent. In its most recent report, the PA Agriculture Education Advisory Committee identified “developing a pipeline of qualified teachers” and “connecting agriculture science with STEM and other sciences” as two top priorities for the state’s $135 billion food and agriculture industry. This grant will support both endeavors, while also helping students and researchers address the challenges posed by climate shifts and evolving market dynamics.

Harrisburg University is poised to use the funds to further integrate technology into agricultural practices, fostering a culture of sustainability, efficiency, and forward thinking within its academic and research programs, including improving food security through controlled environment agriculture (CEA) education in urban school districts.

This is the second consecutive year in which Dr. Rachel Fogle, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Harrisburg University, has been awarded a grant by this state program. Last year’s grant supported tuition costs for 19 Cedar Cliff High school students enrolled in either HU’s College in the High School (CiHS) or dual-enrollment programs. Funding also provided each student with a take-home mini hydroponics system, including supplies and knowledge necessary for long-term maintenance.

Dr. Fogle is already looking forward to the positive regional impact this second grant will have: “This round of funding will support 10 Cedar Cliff students for CiHS, three SciTech students for traditional dual enrollment, and 10 Steelton-Highspire students for on-site instruction by HU faculty that will utilize the HU Aquaponics Research Greenhouse, located on Steelton-Highspire School District property. A portion of the grant will also be devoted to community outreach and education that will be facilitated through a partnership with The Hill Farm, an urban farm operated by the Joshua Group.”

She continued: “This grant is expanding upon previous efforts and trying to reach a population of learners that are located within food deserts to educate students and their communities on ways that food security can be impacted on an individual level.”

Since 2019, the PA Farm Bill Ag & Youth Grants have played a pivotal role in injecting close to $2 million into nearly 200 projects across the state, and supporting initiatives that prepare youth for careers in agriculture as they contribute to the industry’s growth. Harrisburg University is proud to be part of this transformative movement and looks forward to using the grant to nurture the next generation of leaders and innovators in agriculture.