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Memories of meeting season

Carol Ann Gregg vintage Valentine's Day vase on table
LOVING MEMORIES: This Valentine’s Day vase brings back memories of many industry meetings with fellow farm couples.
Farmhouse Window: This year’s meeting season will look different, but there’s still lots of good information for your farm.

After some digging, I was finally able to find the vase from the first valentine I received from my husband. I was a junior attending college near the family farm. The paint on the vase is chipped, but it is still able to hold red and white carnations that bring back memories of the winter holidays of years past.

The date on the back was 1962. We continue to celebrate through the years.

On a snowy winter day, my husband would come in for lunch and open the mail.

“How’d you like to go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day?” he asked.

“Sure,” I would respond, knowing full well that this wasn’t an invitation to a candlelight dinner in a fancy restaurant. Oh no, it was meeting season, and one of the many wintertime meetings was set for Valentine’s Day — or one day that week.

There are four seasons in the farm community: spring planting, summer growing season, fall harvest and winter meeting season.

From the early 1960s through the 1980s, from January through March, farmers had the opportunity to participate in several association annual meetings, dealer seminars and Extension educational events. It would not be unusual to have invitations to two or three meetings a week during meeting season.

One dealership still has its spray clinic the first week of January.

These meetings always included a meal. Unlike today, these dinners were served by the women of a local church or grange. The food was plentiful and delicious. Going out to a restaurant back then was a rare treat, so attending and enjoying a full-course dinner made by someone else also was a real treat.

Nearly every February, one of these meetings would occur during the week of Valentine’s Day. We would celebrate the couples’ holiday enjoying a great meal, visiting with fellow farm couples and learning something new about the industry.

I recall hearing insights on the national ag scene from David Kohl of Virginia Tech or Art Nesbitt from Nasco. They were always able to share some ideas that helped farmers understand the effect of national events on their home farms.

Nearly every year, ag economists such as Kohl or Lou Moore from Penn State distilled the economic conditions of the day into terms that farm couples could take home and use on their farms. As dairy producers, we participated in breed association meetings, district meetings for the AI associations and the Dairy Herd Improvement Association county meetings.

Our day would begin by trying to get chores done quickly so we could make the 11:30 a.m. meeting on time. The philosophy at the time was that farmers had more time in winter to attend meetings.

Occasionally, a meeting would be at suppertime, which caused evening chores to be moved to earlier in the day so that we could go.

One of the big events of the year was Corn Day. This event took place at the county vocational-technical school on Presidents Day when the large meeting room would be available while the students were off for the day. Many farmers would have their teenage children along with them to see what was going on in the crop side of the business.

This event attracted nearly every farmer who grew crops in the county. Not only could you earn pesticide license credits, but you also could hear firsthand results of the latest agronomy studies from Penn State faculty and researchers.

The bonus to this and all the meetings held each winter was the chance to catch up with other farmers and to learn from them what they were trying on their farms.

According to the calendar, February is the shortest month of the year. With COVID-19, I’m sure meeting season will look a lot different this year. Farm meetings brought a bright spot to an otherwise cold and dreary month that sometimes seemed to last forever.

Gregg writes from western Pennsylvania. She is the Pennsylvania 2019 Outstanding Woman in Agriculture and is a past president of American Agri-Women.

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