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Issue Home April 1, 2009 Site Home

Erin McHale Places In Farm Show Contest
Northeast No-Till Conference Held
Artist Books Display At Montrose Library
Beta Rho Chapter Honors Members

Erin McHale Places In Farm Show Contest

Erin McHale, Harford, PA won second place at the state level’s poster contest for ages 12-14 for her Fun and Safety Poster depicting safety on the Harford Fairgrounds. The contest is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The winning posters were displayed in January at the 93rd PA Farm Show in Harrisburg, and the 97th PA State Fair Convention in Hershey. Erin’s winning entry will be displayed in the Little Red Schoolhouse at the fair in August, 2009.

Erin McHale of Harford won second place at the State Farm Show for her Fun and Safety on the Fairgrounds poster, depicting the Harford Fair.

Erin’s entry was in competition at the state level, along with other posters submitted from some of the 117 Pennsylvania fairs. A panel of judges selected Erin’s poster, completed with colored pencils and markers, based on her use of the theme, visual appearance and creativity in relation to other exhibitors her age. The theme of the poster was, “Fun and Safety On the Fairgrounds,” and illustrated the interdependence between riders and rides.

In order for Erin to be eligible for the state competition, she won first place in her age group at the Harford Fair in Susquehanna County in August, 2008. The PA Department of Agriculture awarded $100.00 for first place, $75.00 for second place and $50.00 for third place in each of the three age categories.

Erin is the daughter of Sue and Sean McHale of New Milford, and is an eighth grader in the Mountain View High School. She plays the flute in the band, participates in chorus and plays junior high basketball. As a second grader, Erin began art classes at Barry’s Art Room in Fleetville, and continues lessons there with instructor Barry Singer. She also teaches Awana at her church.

Students and teachers interested in participating in the 2010 Fun and Safety Poster Contest at the 2009 Harford Fair can find details on the fair’s website,

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Northeast No-Till Conference Held
Submitted By Matt Purdy

This year’s No-Till Conference was ground-breaking. Not with a plow or a disc, but with roots and earthworms and a better understanding of how undisturbed soil is healthy soil. Beginning with an on-site demonstration of how a clump of soil from a no-till field holds together when saturated, compared to a clump of soil from a garden tilled annually of the same soil type, Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist for the USDA/NRCS Soil Quality Team, described what soil health really means. It didn’t take long for the clod of dirt that came from the roto-tilled plot to begin falling apart. This is a major factor in the erosion of soil. Not only is soil vulnerable to erosion when it is exposed without cover, but even more significant is that its structural integrity has been compromised by the destructive action of the plow.

Charlie Miller talks about no-till equipment at the Conservation District’s annual no-till conference held in Harford.

When the soil is broken up, it is exposed to air. The oxygen in the air allows opportunistic bacteria to flourish and rapidly consume the organic matter in the soil, including the “glue” that holds soil particles together and protects it from washing away and turning our streams brown. Over time, an undisturbed soil develops biofilms and organic residues, like glomalin that hold soil aggregates together and allow porosity and structure for air and water to flow through. Another demonstration simulating rain on soil showed how the non-tilled soil aggregate held its structure allowing water to flow through readily, while the tilled soil aggregate of the same soil type formed a seal and withheld most of the water on the surface, keeping the soil dry just inches below.

The slimy excretions and castings of an earthworm and the filamentous segments of fungi are significant contributors to the natural buildup of organic matter and the conversion of decomposing matter into plant nutrients in an undisturbed soil. Tillage devastates earthworms and the beneficial fungi, which continually provide the nutrients plants need to take up from the soil. Following tillage, much of the carbon that was locked up in the organic matter of the soil is released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide as a result of accelerated bacterial consumption and respiration. Although there is a temporary increase in plant nutrient availability as a result of rapid decomposition, the overall health of the soil is diminished by the conversion of banked fertility and the loss of structural benefits provided by the organic component of the soil.

According to Ray Archuleta, “Soil Health is the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital, living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.” Planting a cover crop is one of the most beneficial practices a farmer can implement for improving soil health and long-term productivity. Cover crops are planted after cash crops, in order to minimize erosion and to add plant material to the soil matrix, banking latent soil fertility. Including legumes in the rotation adds nitrogen to the system, free of charge. Since inorganic fertilizers are made with fossil fuels, the cost continues to rise as these limited resources are depleted.

The real take-home lesson is that healthy soil is dependent upon organic matter. The more organic matter a soil has, the better the conditions are for plant growth. Organic matter provides steady plant nutrients as beneficial organisms complete the nutrient cycle by decomposing it. Before the organic matter is decomposed, the essential elements of plant nutrition are locked up in the compounds that the decomposing plant material is made of. This prevents plant nutrients like nitrogen from leaching away from the root zone as water moves through the soil column or washing off the field with rain water runoff as quickly as inorganic fertilizers might. Organic matter also stabilizes soil aggregates, imparting resistance to compaction and erosion, while providing porosity for water and air holding capacity, which increases drought resistance, plant nutrient availability, and optimal root growth.

Contact your local Conservation District to learn more about cover cropping and to find out about specialized No-till planting and seeding equipment available for rent at low cost, to assist anyone interested in transitioning to the No-till system.

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Artist Books Display At Montrose Library

Photographer Michael Poster and poet Melissa Whalen Haertsch collaborated on a set of hand-bound limited edition concertina books. Generous friends of the Susquehanna County Historical Society & Free Library Association have donated four of these books, which are on display in the front showcase of the Main Building on Monument Square in Montrose (rotating display of varying pages). The four books are Civil War Album (archival photographs from the Library of Congress), Fruiting Body (trees), Hop On Hop Off (urban transportation), and Tangle (gardens). For more information, stop by the library or visit

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Beta Rho Chapter Honors Members

The Susquehanna United Methodist Church was the setting for the March meeting of the Beta Rho Chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International. President Susan Lee conducted the business meeting, which included a review of the revisions of the Standing Rules and the collection of books to support the State Project, “Ethiopia Reads.” Members were also encouraged to make plans to attend the Alpha Alpha State Purposeful Seminar, “The Erie Experience, Environment and More” to be held April 24-26, in Erie, PA and the State Convention, June 12-14 at the Nittany Lion Inn, State College, which will feature the theme, “A Tapestry of Stories.”

Beta Rho Chapter initiates Rachel Gilleran at the March meeting in Susquehanna. Pictured from (l-r) are Chapter President Susan Lee, Rachel, and Kathleen Hinkley, friend and sponsor.

A program was presented by Feng Shui expert, author, instructor, consultant, and teacher, Sybilla Lenz. A resident of Tunkhannock, she gave an overview of the positive power of Feng Shui principles and the impact it has on everyone’s life. Members learned that color, placement, and selection of art work in your home can provide a calming atmosphere, and thus reduce daily stress.

Highlights of the chapter meeting included the initiation of Rachel Gilleran, a Title 1 teacher in the Susquehanna Elementary School. Following a lovely, candlelight ceremony conducted by Second Vice President Ann Way, Rachel was presented with a single red rose, which symbolizes friendship, loyalty and helpfulness in the Society, and was then warmly welcomed by the membership.

Erma Hefferan was then memorialized during the Ceremony of Remembrance by members Joan Peters and Mary Ann Cunningham. Erma, a retired Social Studies teacher in the Montrose Area School District, was initiated into the Society in 1962 and gave years of dedicated service to the organization. Anecdotes shared during the ceremony brought smiles and tears to those present.

The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International is a professional honor society for women educators with more than 115,000 members. Established in 16 member countries around the world, the Society defines its mission as promoting professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education.

The Society offers more leadership training opportunities for women educators than any other professional organization. These include scholarships for both active and retired members, stipends for educational projects, and online courses for professional growth.

The next Beta Rho meeting will be a Tri-Chapter meeting at Shadowbrook in Tunkhannock. The featured speaker will be the Alpha Alpha State President, Carolyn Sutton, who will be traveling from the western part of the state to attend the meeting of Alpha Zeta, Pi and Beta Rho Chapters. The first Beta Rho Achievement Award will also be presented at that meeting on May 2.

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