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Pa. farmer and business owner surprised with job exchange

November 14, 2007|By DON AINES

Each year Franklin County becomes a little less farm and a bit more city, a slow but steady clash of two very different, yet interdependent cultures which the annual Franklin County Farm-City Banquet seeks to soften.

The United States was far more rural when National Farm-City Week began in 1955 to foster understanding between rural and urban residents. Retired county agent John Z. Shearer said at Tuesday's banquet that only about 1 percent of Americans now live on farms, though Franklin County still has about half its total acreage in agriculture.

For 32 years one feature of Farm-City Week in Franklin County has been the job exchange where someone from town learns about life on the farm and vice-versa. This year Doug Wagner of Wagner Supply Depot in Chambersburg, Pa., switched places with Ben Peckman of Slate Ridge Dairy Farm in St. Thomas, Pa.

"I was impressed how Doug saw a need for a janitorial supply company in this area," Peckman said of the janitorial, maintenance and packaging supply business Wagner and his wife started seven years ago.

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Eighty percent of a company's cleaning budget is devoted to it floors, Peckman said he learned. It is not just aesthetically pleasing, but a health and safety issue for many businesses to prevent slips and falls and the growth of molds and germs that could put workers at risk, he said.

Much of Wagner's inventory of cleaning devices is for businesses that clean thousands of square feet of warehouse or shop floor, Peckman said.

"My favorite was the Ride On Auto Scrubber," he said.

"I thought they were going to give me a pair of gloves and a bucket" to milk a cow, Wagner said of his day on Peckman's farm. Instead, he found a highly automated and computer-driven business run to squeeze as much out of every square foot of arable land as possible.

Wagner's experience with farming, he said, was limited to weekly trips to buy milk and get an ice cream cone when he was a boy. He was a bit tentative about agricultural terms, looking to Peckman when uttering words such as "harrow" and "forage." Offered a chopper ride, he ended up in a field of sorghum instead of a helicopter, he said.

County Commissioner Bob Thomas was presented the Franklin County Council of Chambers of Commerce Award for his 12 years as a commissioner and work on farmland preservation.

"We weren't quite sure how the election would turn out and we wanted Bob to win something this fall," said Greencastle Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Gore.

Former state representative Patrick Fleagle of Waynesboro, Pa., received the Franklin County Farm Bureau Award for his legislative efforts on behalf of agriculture during his 18 years in the House.

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