More than two dozen Centre County farms and agriculture-related businesses were announced as recipients Monday for state grants designed to better drive agricultural tourism — meaning additional outdoor seating, new retail spaces, improved parking, and more.
Twenty-eight county businesses were formally revealed Monday morning during a press conference hosted jointly by nonprofit tourism bureau Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB) and the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC). No applicant was turned away, and all received between $2,000 and $10,000 for projects ranging from restroom renovation (Meyer Dairy Farms) to ice-cream facility expansion (Wasson Farm).
“The projects put forward will make it even more inviting to visit Happy Valley and enjoy and appreciate our agricultural heritage,” HVAB President and CEO Fritz Smith told attendees.
Both residents and out-of-town visitors could see many improvements in the coming weeks and months. Seven Mountains Wine Cellars is looking to construct a permanent outdoor food facility, University Wine Company and Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery are seeking to enhance their outdoor seating, Pine Grove Hall is expanding its parking lot, and numerous others are improving their businesses in other ways.
At Patton Township’s RE Farm Cafe at Windswept Farm, where Monday’s press conference took place, the owners received $9,800 — “seed money” — for the addition of an outdoor, ground-level deck with canopy, seating and a fire pit. The deck itself was already mostly complete Monday, with workers hammering and sawing after the press conference’s conclusion.
Speaking outdoors at a podium, in front of green rolling hills and chirping birds in tall trees, Smith intimated that the pastoral scene was a theme of Monday’s grants, which were secured from a state agency with help last fall from Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Benner Township.
“You see the great sunset views that are possible here at RE Farm, and some more outdoor seating will allow more guests to enjoy the spectacular view,” Smith added. “And that’s kind of a theme of this grant program — trying to find ways to help you accommodate more visitors. So we’re funding some things that aren’t real sexy, but they’re important for the visitor experience, things like widening roads.”
Cheesemaker Goot Essa received $9,800 for an outdoor picnic area and pavilions. Rhoneymeade, an arboretum, earned $8,800 for an outdoor sound system and DJ equipment to support a growing outdoor music festival called Rhoneymeade Fest. And Sinking Creek Meats got $8,500 for the construction of retail space.
More than a dozen recipients converged on Windswept Farm to thank the local organizations, HVAB and CBICC, and to discuss the grants’ positive impact on their businesses. Leslie Zuck, owner of Spring Mills’ Common Ground Farm, explained how $9,500 will allow her to invite same-day visitors by adding public bathrooms, in addition to beautifying the landscape. Matt Naylor, technology manager at Grange Park, described how technological upgrades to judging areas — such as the installation of projectors and livestream equipment — will satisfy potential renters who require such accommodations.
Duke Gastiger, owner of RE Farm Cafe, said it all came down to connections — connecting with friends, family and nature. And Monday’s grants helped advance that.
“People want to be close to nature” he added. “They want to be out.”
Monday’s grants were a one-time award, through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s “Marketing to Attract Tourists” program. About $450,000 was received in total — with about half of the funding going toward HVAB/CBICC’s stated goal to advance agricultural tourism (“agritourism”) and the other half split among those 28 county applicants.
The grants are separate from the similar ones HVAB usually announces in June involving the Centre County commissioners.
Here’s a closer look at the 28 recipients of Monday’s grants, funded by the state:
- Bear Meadow Farms: $7,800 for additional paved parking spots, road widening and beautification
- Bee Tree Berry Farm: $8,600 for controlled outdoor storage for fresh fruits and vegetables
- Central PA Tasting Trail: $10,000 for two promotional billboards in Centre and Mifflin counties
- Centre County Grange Fair: $9,000 for technology improvements to the livestock judging area to attract different agriculture shows
- Common Ground Farm: $9,500 infrastructure and resource improvements to be visitor ready
- Ferguson Township: $8,000 for infrastructure needs for Route 45 Getaway participants, Tourist Oriented Directional (TOD) signage, banner displays
- Goot Essa: $9,800 for pavilions and an outdoor picnic area at the cheese shop
- Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery: $9,000 to expand the outdoor seating area, including a pergola, sail shade covers and picnic benches
- Harner Farm: $4,100 for a parking lot and deck
- J.L. Farm and Cidery: $9,800 for a paved driveway and outdoor pavilions
- JNJP Holdings (University Wine Company): $5,000 for stone signage for better driveway visibility
- Meyer Dairy Farms: $9,800 for the renovation/enhancement of public restrooms
- Nittany Meadow Farm: $9,000 for construction to meet Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture licensing requirements for goat dairy operations
- Nittany Meadow Farm: $2,000 for bus retrofitting to travel with goats to promoted agricultural and education opportunities
- Pasto Agricultural Museum: $8,000 for improvements to the museum entrance, including lighting and a gift shop
- Pine Grove Hall: $9,500 for parking lot expansion
- Pole Cat Hollow Farm: $5,500 for the conversion of a farm shed into an ag education area for visitors
- RE Farm Cafe at Windswept: $9,800 for the addition of an outdoor, ground-level deck with canopy, seating, stairs and a fire pit
- Rhoneymeade: $8,800 for a sound system, DJ equipment, lighting and other needs to support Rhoneymeade Fest
- Rimmey Road Farm: $8,500 for upgrades to the farm for retail space and events
- Rooted Farmstead: $9,000 for site enhancements, point of sale equipment and the establishment of a peony garden
- Schaeffer Farm: $6,000 for a year-round farm stand, refrigeration/freezers, parking enhancements
- Scott’s Roasting: $8,000 for a food truck vehicle wrapping of farm
- Seven Mountains Wine Cellars: $8,500 for a permanent outdoor food facility
- Sinking Creek Meats: $8,500 for the construction of retail space
- University Wine Company: $5,000 for enhancements to the outdoor seating area
- Wasson Farm: $8,500 for facility expansion to increase production, meet customer demand for ice cream
This story was originally published May 23, 2022 4:38 PM.