As visitors approach the horticulture research farm from Route 45 in Spruce Creek Valley, they see a visual hodgepodge. Every plot is crammed with crops ranging from tomatoes to tubers, and there are 12 acres of fruit trees and small fruit plants. Manager Bob Oberheim, an agronomist by training, juggles land requests, crop plots, and unique research projects while finding time to complete his duties as Ag Progress Days manager and as a member of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Commission.
The horticulture farm employs three full-time technicians, who handle most of the planting and agricultural work. Some of the crops produced on the farm are sold on the open market, with profits used to offset the farm’s operating budget. Crops not grown in enough quantity to sell wholesale are donated to local charities, such as Meals on Wheels and youth and church groups.
“Much of the plant and genetics research is done in greenhouses and growth chambers these days,” Oberheim says. “But eventually all these high-tech methods must be evaluated on the farm.”