HARRISBURG, Pa. — Tom Moyer remembers the humble beginnings of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Scholarship Foundation like it was yesterday.
“The goal was to really try to keep youth involved in agriculture,” he said.
So three companies — Hatfield Quality Meats, Glatfelter Insurance and Leffler Energy — brainstormed an idea to start a scholarship program to help kids wanting to get a degree in agriculture.
“It started with six scholarships and $1,000 each,” Moyer said.
On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Scholarship Foundation reached a milestone, surpassing the $1 million mark in total scholarships awarded.
Twenty-five students received scholarships of $3,500 with Penn State donating an additional $2,000 to students enrolled its College of Agricultural Sciences and Delaware Valley College providing a 100 percent match for its students.
While the program is still geared to students getting ag-related degrees — between 70 and 75 percent of students getting the scholarship do pursue ag-related degrees — the program is open to any student enrolled in a two- or four-year college or technical school, so long as they are involved in either 4-H or FFA and participate in the Farm Show.
Moyer said the foundation received a record 67 scholarship applications in 2012.
Dozens of companies, ranging from grocery store chains and restaurants to numerous ag organizations, raise money for the program through the annual Farm Show Sale of Champions, whose proceeds benefit the foundation.
Hoss’s Steak and Sea House bought Samantha Fabian’s 1,330-pound grand champion junior market steer for $11,500, the top bid at the sale.
Tee Pecora’s grand champion junior market swine, which was purchased by Hatfield Quality Meats and Giant Food Stores, and Logan Foore’s reserve champion steer, which was purchased by Saubel’s Markets, each sold for $6,000.
Hayden Demniak’s grand champion junior market lamb, bought by Bell & Evans, sold for $5,000.
Sydney Kimmel’s reserve champion junior market swine sold for $4,600 to Hatfield Quality Meats and Giant Food Stores.
The grand champion junior market goat, owned by Ronald Jake Ritenour, sold for $3,500 to New Holland Sales Stables.
Racole Sproul’s reserve champion junior market goat sold for $3,300, also to New Holland Sales Stables. And Chandler Carey’s reserve champion junior market lamb sold for $2,500 to a trio of buyers — Fulton Bank, Lebanon Valley Auction Co. and Bell & Evans poultry.
Some organizations raise money for the foundation outside the sale, such as the Pennsylvania Showmen’s Association, which raised $18,001 through a carousel it runs at the Farm Show.
For 21-year-old scholarship recipient Caleb Wright of Alexandria, Huntington County, getting recognized is an important aspect.
“It really does mean a lot,” he said. “These are the people that are most important to ag.”
Chris Brand, director of public and community relations for Giant Food Stores, said donating to the foundation is about recognizing the importance of agriculture.
“We understand agriculture and how important it is, and we believe in giving back to the community,” Brand said.
Glenn Wenger, president and CEO of Wengers in Myerstown, has volunteered his time at the sale of champions for the past 12 years and was excited the foundation surpassed the $1 million mark.
“It’s a significant achievement. To be able to know that the money goes back to agriculture is satisfying,” Wenger said.
Chet Hughes, Penn State’s state program leader for animal science, was on hand to see his niece get a scholarship. Last year, his son received a scholarship through the program, and he’s mentored other youngsters raising livestock in Lancaster County who have gone on to receive the scholarship.
He said the money helps, especially when college costs are rising for students.
“They are really appreciative of all the generosity of the industry. The costs of college are so high, they appreciate all the help,” Hughes said.
With more youngsters applying for scholarships than ever before, Moyer said he hopes businesses outside agriculture find enough value in the program to get involved.
Still, getting to $1 million is something Moyer said he never expected would happen.
“When you think about $1 million, it blows your mind,” he said.