Dan Mole (R-91) and Eddie Day Pashinxi (D-121) raised their test spoons and smiled as they tasted delicious pie fillings at the food testing lab at Knouse Foods Wednesday.

Although state representatives may be divided on other issues, the food unites everyone, Mole said, proudly showing his counterpart on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee a small piece of Adams County.

“What an absolutely perfect setting to show the food that feeds America and Pennsylvania right here in Adams County,” Mole said a few minutes earlier, surrounded by roaring trucks and forklifts hauling apple products from place to place outside the processing plant. Knouse Foods in Peach Glen. , located in the northern tier of Adams County.

The meeting at Knouse Foods kicked off the Food that Fuels Pennsylvania tour, a nationwide plan to highlight Commonwealth agriculture and the food industry. The tour was started by the Minister of Agriculture Russell Redding and the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Social and Economic Development Carol Kilko. In addition to Mole and Pashinsky, there was Wilkes Barre, a state representative, and Thorne Ecker (R-193).

“This tour underscores the entrepreneurial spirit of Pennsylvania’s farms and food industry, as well as the way they nurture the Commonwealth,” Reding said. “We recognize agriculture as an important part of our past and a crucial part of our future.”

Reading will continue touring the state, visiting the people and places responsible for feeding the $ 132.5 billion Pennsylvania agricultural industry. After a tour of the fruit lands Reding will visit dairy farms, mushroom and poultry farms and others.

Reading said the state’s high level of success was based on economic impact research and strategic plan. A combined effort to develop the state’s valuable resources has led to the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, a $ 37.2 million investment in Pennsylvania agriculture aimed at empowering, removing barriers to entry and inspiring future generations of rural leaders farms.

An additional $ 253 million has been spent on conserving farmland, saving more than 100,000 hectares of farmland since 2015.

“All of this has merged into Pennsylvania’s bipartisan agricultural industry,” he said. “It remains the only state farm bill in the country where the governor, chamber, senate, Republicans and Democrats have come together to meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s agriculture.”

Reading discussed the importance of the 100-year collective effort of growers responsible for maintaining the Adams County Fruit Belt.

With a quote from the Adams County Planning and Development Office, the region’s agriculture delivers an economic impact of $ 580 million a year, Reading said.

Knouse Foods is a leading supplier of fruit products including apple sauce, diced and whole apples, apple oil, apple juice and cider, fruit toppings, fruit pizza toppings and fruit desserts under the Musselman’s and Lucky brands. Letter, among others.

“Food nourishes jobs, the economy, innovation and families,” Reding said. “Today we are here to celebrate the industry that makes this possible, and the farmers who innovate every day, especially in the workforce.”

Politicians were invited to try apple puree, unsweetened slices and fillings for pies of several varieties, and learned how lab technicians work to maintain product quality.

Knouse Foods is collaborating with more than 100 family farms across the South Mountain Fruit Belt and beyond to process 6 million bushels of apples for consumption nationwide. This is excluding peaches, cherries, blueberries and other fruits that are processed in the plant.

The factory is on track to get about 10 percent more fruit this year than last, said Larry Martin, chief executive of Knouse Foods.

The company employs 1,100 people, mostly full-time, Martin said. He said more than 100,000 square feet of cold storage allows business to continue throughout the winter. The company hires part-time during the peak season from late August to October, he said.

Four local Knouse Foods factories are now looking for about 60 employees. At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 99 percent of customers were still receiving products on time, he said. Martin said unemployment and supply chain logistics reduced customer satisfaction to a percentage in the 1990s.

“It may sound good, but it’s every 10th store that doesn’t have your product on the shelf,” he said. “We are not unique in this problem.”

Knouse Foods offers “competitive wages” and bonuses to compete in the job market, Martin said. The company has also launched a program of “operational ambassadors” to help new employees feel wanted and listen to their concerns, Martin said.

“These are the same workers who were considered necessary a year ago, and they are still important to us,” he said. “It is very important to get people back to work. We want them to feel in a company that rewards, recognizes and values ​​that they are part of our family. ”

Automation continues to evolve and has become part of Knouse Foods, but there are no plans to immediately replace workers with automated methods, Martin said.

Knouse Foods is not immune to supply chain problems that disrupt businesses across the country. He said up to 20-30 trucks a day would not come to pick up orders for retail supplies.

“With the onset of the holidays, when the consumer can’t find the products he’s looking for, that’s a problem,” he said. “There are negotiations at the federal level, but we hope there are plans to address these issues.”

Approximately 14,000 solar panels and a sewage treatment center that converts solid waste into biogas provide 90 percent or more of the plant’s energy needs, said Vice President of Human Resources and Communications Scott Briggs.

To maintain the grassy areas around the solar panels, the company is working with a local farmer whose flock of sheep is fed in a fenced area near the plant, Briggs said.

https://www.gettysburgtimes.com/news/local/article_4b2e0353-6f38-5c9b-b37e-153a8efbfadc.html

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