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Gerald Reichard

Pa. farmer steering teens to agriculture

Pa. farmer steering teens to agriculture

May 18, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Gerald Reichard is a lifelong farmer who has nurtured teenagers as much as he has nurtured crops.

Reichard, 72, was an agricultural educator in high schools for 37 years. Since retirement, the Waynesboro man has continued to work with more than a dozen organizations like the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

"I enjoyed working with the kids. It was rewarding to see them grow and accomplish things they never thought they could," Reichard said.

Many of his post-retirement efforts involve introducing youths to agriculture, whether through farm safety days, the Fall Farm Fun Fest, the county fair or FFA judging.

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He serves on the advisory board for AgrAbility, an organization that helps handicapped people find ways to work effectively on farms. Those accommodations often involve mechanics or structural adaptations that allow for greater productivity.

Reichard keeps busy, but he has no complaints.

"If I had to go back and do it over again, I'd do the same things," he said.

Much of his current work involves fighting to keep programs alive despite funding cuts and fewer donations. He's also watching FFA evolve to better serve students who don't live on farms.

"We've been trying to educate the public that FFA is for everybody," Reichard said.

Studies in agriculture mechanics, especially, can be helpful in many careers beyond the farm, he said.

Reichard, who has four children with his wife, Jean, made an eight-day commitment to judge FFA demonstrations at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January. He and his oldest son rented a hotel room nearby, allowing Reichard to also greet exhibitors and supervise FFA ballots cast by the public each day.

Reichard's position on the Antietam Humane Society board means he gets called if there's a case of farm animal neglect. He has served on that board since 1991.

Planning is under way for the Ag Ed Institute for Franklin County fourth-graders. In its 13th year, the event for which Reichard serves as co-chairman hosts 2,000 children for two days each fall.

Reichard grew up on a farm off Pa. 316 north of Waynesboro. His family raised dairy cattle, hogs and beef cattle, and his father ran a custom butchering shop in the winter months.

A 1953 graduate of Quincy High School, Reichard first studied agriculture engineering at Penn State University and later entered the agriculture education program. He took off two years to serve in the U.S. Army and graduated in 1959.

He taught at South Western High School in Hanover, Pa., for two years, then later at Greencastle-Antrim and Waynesboro Area Senior high schools.

Q&A with Gerald Reichard



Resides in: Waynesboro, Pa.

Occupation: Retired, former agriculture teacher

Q: What is your proudest moment?

A: Being recognized at the National Convention of Agriculture Educators in December 2008, along with building his family.

Q: Whom do you most admire, and why?

A: Paul Benchoff, fellow teacher at Waynesboro Area Senior High School. "He was always calm, cool and collected. For me, he always had good advice to offer."

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received, and who gave it to you?

A: Richard Leighter said, "A pat on the back goes a lot further than a kick in the shins. It helped me develop a philosophy of how you have to treat each student with respect."

Q: What is the next goal you would like to achieve?

A: Reinvigorate funding for agriculture education programs.

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