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Pursuing a new focus

A buzzword that may reach Huntingdon County in the near future is “agritourism,” the combination of agriculture and tourism.

The idea combines agriculture and tourism, introducing practices such as milking cows, shearing sheep and picking pumpkins to those unfamiliar with farming.

Agritourism is a new focus of the Huntingdon County Business and Industry’s business development committee, according to committee chair Tom Mincemoyer.

“We tried to kick around things that we felt Huntingdon County was primed to be successful in,” he said. “Obviously we have a large tourism economy in the county and a large agricultural economy as well. The agricultural sector is a struggling portion because farming gets harder and harder to make a living at all of the time, especially for people that aren’t massive.”

Mincemoyer said across the state and across the country, the concept of agritourism has been a way to help some people find another income or business stream to support their farm.

“The more we talked about it, the confluence of the tourism and agricultural industries seemed like a good fit for us and something we can make headway in,” he said.

Committee members hope to hold a stakeholders meeting in early April to meet with interested parties and agencies to discuss the topic, as well as to find ways to capitalize on existing programs.

Mincemoyer related that the plans to move forward with the initiative will be an active pursuit to not only help those planning to start a business, but to educate others on the topic as well.

“We hope to do something educational for the community of potential participants. I have zero expertise in the area, and a lot of people aren’t really understanding what the term means, so our goal is to have some sort of educational forum for people who are interested in agritourism to find out a little bit more about it and see whether it might be something that could help them out,” said Mincemoyer. “From there, we’ll be trying to work with and support individuals that have an interest in trying to build an agritourism business. They can either enhance what they have, or start a new one, and explore what sort of resources are available to support people.”

The state Department of Agriculture has seen growth in businesses throughout the state. A Huntingdon native, Department of Ag spokesman Will Nichols believes the trend would fit in well in the county.

“Agritourism is one of the growing trends in the state, and in Huntingdon County, our farmers have recognized the value of it, and how it could help their businesses. It is a very broad category of business, it’s everything from a pumpkin patch to a county fair. There are a lot of different ventures that fall under the umbrella of agritourism. It’s basically anything that brings folks onto the farm for a value added experience,” said Nichols. “It is a great way to diversify a farm or to bring it back to an operating status. There are all sorts opportunities for that, and we see it manifests itself in so many different ways across our state.”

Nichols believes that one of the biggest hurdles for farmers starting an agritourism business is access to funding.

“It’s a tough agricultural climate right now in the first place. The hardest part is finding a vision and finding the capitol and the resources to make it a reality. You’re kind of limited only by your dreams, your passion, and your ability to make it become reality,” said Nichols.

On the tourism side, Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau executive director Matt Price understands that the leap to agritourism may be worth the investment for families.

“For many families that have been farming for generations, agritourism may require a completely new way to look at the assets that they own. There is risk in any new venture, so doing the market analysis for each idea and testing it on the market are important to make sure it will be worth the investment,” said Price.

By increasing agritourism in the area, it may add to the visitor experience in all seasons.

“There are a number of agritourism models that would add to the visitor experience in Huntingdon County. Wineries, farm-to-table dining, craft cheese production, use of farm land during non-growing seasons for snow tubing or cross country skiing are some that come to mind immediately,” said Price. “All of these would tie in nicely, not only with the region’s tourism draw, but also with the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) plan for the Southern Alleghenies six-county region.”

Bob and Sandy Baker, owners of Terrace Mountain Alpacas in Union Township, have been in the agritourism game for several years, and see more than 1,000 visitors a year at their farm. They have seen visitors from all over the world, including Russia and China.

“When we have our farm days and open house, we have 200-300 people each time. We have people all summer and even during the winter months, and we get bus tours now and then, too,” said Sandy Baker. “We’ve had people from State College, Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland, come just to buy Christmas gifts. We get a lot of repeat customers.”

Not charging admission, the Bakers make their living off of the sales in their gift shop with products that are made from the alpaca fleece that is harvested from the animals that are the main attraction. The Bakers are primarily motivated by the love of their animals.

“We have certain alpacas that will come up to you and they like their kisses and their hugs, they just enjoy it. A couple of the boys in the mornings will stand in my way until I give them a hug, we give kisses and then they go about their business,” said Baker.

Price added that JB Tree Farm in Morris Township, B&D Acres pumpkin patch in Warriors Mark, the farmers’ markets in Mount Union and Huntingdon and ReKlaimed Vines winery, with a storefront in Smithfield Township, are all examples of agritourism already in full vigor in the area.

Pizza restaurant to open in late spring

Area residents will soon discover once again that it is “hip to be square,” with the addition of a Best Way Pizza franchise in Smithfield Township.

Owned by Jack and Andrea Collins of Hollidaysburg, the restaurant will occupy space vacated by Clearfield Bank in the Huntingdon Plaza.

“They are coming along,” said Andrea Collins. “Construction is slated to start at the beginning of April.”

Huntingdon previously had a Best Way Pizza from 1998 through the early 2000s, which was also located in Smithfield Township along Route 22.

“We are hoping the work will be completed in May and hope to be open by the end of May,” Collins said.

The restaurant will serve a full menu of pizza, salads, subs and more and will utilize the drive-thru area previously used by the bank.

“We will have drive-thru service for pizzas, subs, salads and a lot of different things,” she said. “There will be a brand-new eat-in area as well.”

Collins added that they hope to add an outdoor seating area for customers in the future.

“That won’t be done in May, but we hope to eventually have outdoor seating,” said Collins.

Known for its square-cut pizza served fresh and affordably, Best Way Pizza has a following throughout the central Pennsylvania region.

“This will be our first Best Way, but it will be the 12th in the franchise,” said Collins.

Best Way Pizza was founded by in 1955 by Gene Caparella, who used his grandmother’s pizza recipe. In 1980, the chain was purchased by Craig LeCrone Sr., who was joined in the business by his son, Craig LeCrone Jr. Currently, there are Best Way Pizza franchises operating in Altoona, Bedford, Duncansville, East Freedom, Ebensburg, Everett, Greenwood, Hollidaysburg, Hopewell, Pleasantville and Somerset.

The Collins decided to open their franchise in Huntingdon due to its proximity to Raystown Lake and Juniata College. They plan to hire 15-20 part-time employees.

“We will be advertising for employment and will post information on the windows when we are ready to start taking applications,” she said. “We want to let people know that employment opportunities are forthcoming.”

Collins said he plans to hire 15-20 part-time employees.

The necessary permits are in process through Smithfield Township and all plans are in place for construction to begin and continue as scheduled.

Collision repair classes all about problem solving

“Every day (students) walk through my door, they are solving problems,” said William Ross, instructor of the collision repair program at Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center. “As soon as they walk in that door, they are solving problems for people, from a crash down to the smallest problem they have repairing it. They are constantly strategizing and making plans, thinking through things, and repairing that car to get it back to the original condition it was pre-accident. And that’s just the repair side.”

Ross’s goal with the HCCTC program is to is to teach students the methods and framework for how to solve problems for themselves.

“I teach them step by step and then kick them out of the nest,” he said. “I tell them you have to fly or the cat will eat you. That’s basically what my program is.”

Ross explained he breaks his class into three main categories: structural, non-structural and refinish.

“Structural is your frame and unibody,” he said. “Non-structural is your doors, fenders, hoods, outside items. The cosmetic items: it makes your car look nice and shiny. … Then we have refinish. Once you get the other stuff right, you can refinish it to make it nice and shine.”

Ross said even the refinishing side requires problem-solving.

“The refinish side (of the class) is complicated today with the way things are changing,” he said. “We have to make sure everything is environmentally correct with safe, water-soluble paints. We have to know the rules, and personal safety and how (paints) will affect us as people. The hazardous waste, we have to know about that and how to spray the product.”

He continued, “there are probably 50 paint problems you could have in one job. You have to be able to diagnose that, be a chemist almost, and it takes talent. You need to have a certain skill with your hand but also the mental capacity to understand what you are doing, how you can solve the problem, and how to get there.”

Ross said his goal is to teach students the basics of all three systems and allow them to build off it in whatever direction they prefer.

“I don’t get too specific,” he said. “I try to teach a fundamental basic program where they can fit into any industry, go to any manufacturer and be molded into whatever (the manufacturer) wants them to be.”

He does the same with painting.

“I want to give the fundamentals of painting,” he said. “Paint will stick and you can put it on anything. So (I teach them) these are the foundation and basics of painting, these are the problems you can have, how to fix those problems, the health hazards of it, and then (they) can walk into (manufacturer) JLG or Huston Ford (car dealership) and say, ‘I can paint that.’”

He added, “I want to give (students) the ability and knowledge, fundamentals and framework to build off whatever they want.”

Ross said the program also offers the I-CAR certification if students choose to take it. The I-CAR is a nationally recognized certificate that a student knows the basics of collision repair.

Ross said the I-CAR certification follows closely along the state regulated point of study (POS) that the school teaches.

“I’m required to teach the POS, the I-CAR is just icing,” he said. “I’ll lead them to it, but they have to do the work for it. They have to take initiative. … It just so happens the two go hand in hand. If you get one, it shouldn’t be much of a problem getting the other one.”

If a student has both, Ross said, “that’s a nice feather in your cap.”

He added, “That’s an accomplishment employers want to see, along with attendance. Attend school, get your certificate, and most likely anyone in this area (would be) willing to hire you.”

One of the reasons the certification is so important is because the work of collision repair has gotten more complicated over the years.

“Cars today are on a tighter tolerance,” Ross said. “Things like door gaps have to fit a whole lot better and tighter because there are radar systems built into the car. In order for those systems to work correctly, if it’s ever in a collision or crash, it has to be restored back to that original shape within a tolerance of millimeters. If it’s not restored back to that shape, nothing will work.”

The safety side of vehicles has also increased.

“Cars are built safer than they used to be years ago,” he said. “Airbags and supplemental restraint systems, airlock brake systems, they all depend on the structure of the car and how quickly the car folds up or doesn’t fold up in certain areas when it is in a collision. … If the car doesn’t fold up or stay rigid in the way it’s supposed to, people could be hurt because of negligence on the technician’s part.”

He added, “We have to have academically smart kids. They don’t just play in grease and paint anymore. They have a lot of things they have to know.”

Find more out about Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center at

Jesse can be reached at

More passports issued last year

The number of United States passports issued has increased exponentially over the past two decades, with over 21 million obtained last year — more than three times the 6.3 million issued in 1997.

As an increasing number of citizens look to travel abroad for work or leisure, many first-time passport applicants find that the process requires a great deal of attention to detail.

Locally, passport applications can be processed at the Huntingdon post office and the Huntingdon County Prothonotary’s Office.

“We check out the applications to make sure everything is filled out properly,” said county prothonotary Kay Coons.

Tad Kelley, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service, said passport services are available by appointment.

“Some of our offices offer walk-in services, but most of them are by appointment only,” Kelley said. “We have 92 passport offices in the Western Pennsylvania District. Huntingdon post office receives requests by appointment on the web-based scheduler. Juniata College does not process passports.”

To schedule an appointment at the post office, customers must visit and find the passport link in center of webpage. They then should click on “International,” then “Passports,” and finally, “Find a Post Office.”

“Customers may pick the office they would like to go to, as well as a time that is available, providing the office is one with passport services,” he said. “Photos can be selected as well to have taken.”

To apply for a passport, a Form DS-11 (available at the post office and the prothonotary’s office), proof of U.S. citizenship (such as a birth or naturalization certificate), a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license or military ID), color passport photo and fee payment (check or money order) is required.

“We do not take pictures here, but we do refer them to Walmart or Rite Aid,” Coons said. “Sometimes, we do have an issue with the photos and have to send people back to have them re-taken.”

Birth certificates which fulfill the requirements set forth by the state department have also become something of a hurdle for passport applicants.

“Birth certificates now have to have the parents’ names on them. A lot of people don’t have that,” said Coons. “They come in to get their passport only to be told they have to get a new birth certificate with their parents’ names on it. It hasn’t been too many years since they changed that requirement. Now, newer birth certificates do have the parents’ names on them.”

Preparation is key to navigating the process smoothly.

“Probably one of the most common mistakes is not coming prepared with all of your documents, which means an appointment may have to be rescheduled,” Kelley said.

At the prothonotary’s office, staff members will review the photographs and the assembled documents prior to processing the application.

“We basically serve as an agent for the passport services,” she said.

When questions arise, Coons added that she and her staff will do her best to help applicants.

“It depends what the questions are, but if we don’t know the answer, we’ll call the passport agency in Philadelphia to get answers,” she said.

Area dietitians hope to clear up fallacies

When it comes to dietary health, there’s a myriad of information available to those who are seeking information about proper nutrition, but sifting through that information can be overwhelming, especially if that information is not from a credible source.

Two registered dietitians at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital discussed the hurdles they climb to make sure accurate information is out there for their patients and the wider community so folks can make sound decisions when it comes to their dietary health, highlighting the importance of correct information on National Nutrition Month.

One thing they would like to immediately clear up is the difference between a dietician and a nutritionist, as it could mean getting advice from an accredited, trained source and someone off the street.

“A registered dietician is someone who’s had at least four years of undergraduate studies and has a bachelor’s degree,” said Elizabeth Kauruter, clinical dietician at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital. “In addition to a degree, they’ll have a one year-long dietary internship where you’re in the areas where you could work. After that, you have to take an exam to be certified.”

Joanna Zeigler, another clinical dietitian at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, said the problem with people calling themselves nutritionists, despite the fact that there are certification programs available, is that there’s no regulation with the title.

“The problem is that literally everyone can call themselves a nutritionist, and it sounds professional, but some can give all sorts of crazy advice,” said Zeigler.

“A nutritionist can say anything, and there’s really no accountability,” added Kauruter, noting that if a patient is working with a dietician, there are checks and balances in the industry.

“We also have to go through continuing education to maintain our licenses,” said Zeigler.

As dietitians, Kauruter and Zeigler said they often feel like they’re in competition with information patients may receive from the internet, or if someone is successful with a weight-loss program, they feel like they’re experts in the field of nutrition.

“There are so many different things out there with a lot of conflicting information,” said Zeigler. “People get confused when they go online and they’re getting different messages.”

Kauruter said it’s important that when dietitians work with patients, they are working with the patient to come up with a plan that will best work for them.

“It’s not a one size fits all situation (with diet plans),” she said. “(A diet plan) has to be individualized to the person.”

“It has to be individualized for their body type and their medical history,” added Kauruter.

So, popular diets like the popular Keto diet, or the Ketogenic Diet, may be dangerous to those who don’t know all of information about it. This diet calls for foods that are high in fats and low in carbohydrates.

“The Keto diet was originally designed for children who suffer from epilepsy,” said Kauruter. “This diet hasn’t been well researched yet, so it’s not one we would recommend, because we’re not sure of things like heart health ramifications.”

Zeigler said when it comes to diets, if it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

“If it promises a quick fix, then it’s probably not a good diet to follow,” she said.

If people are interested in working with the dietitians at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, they will need a referral from a primary care physician or another physician with whom they are seeking treatment.

“Though you need a referral, you can call us, and we’re more than happy to help you with the process of getting a referral,” said Zeigler.

For more information, contact Zeigler and Kauruter, contact them at 643-7054.

Rep. votes to keep voting age

When it comes to a bill that would revamp electoral systems and campaign funding, HR 1, U.S. Rep. John Joyce, representing the 13th Congressional District, said he voted against the bill, including provisions in it that would amend the voting age to 16 years old.

Joyce said the biggest reason he voted against the bill, as well as some of the amendments in it, is because he believes this is an attempt to federalize the election process.

The bill would authorize spending $750 million over five years on state programs to make voter registration easier.

“This is clearly a power reserved for the states under the Constitution, and I opposed the additional mandates under this bill feeling that federalism dictates that states should make these decisions,” he said. “When organizations with ideologies and agendas as different as the National Right to Life and the American Civil Liberties Union both oppose a piece of legislation, that is a clear indication that it has significant flaws.”

One of the amendments in the bill would have allowed the IRS to require disclosure of donors and set limits on political activity by nonprofit organizations, including 501©(4) “social-welfare” groups, that participate in election campaigns.

“The people of the 13th District sent me to Washington to provide them with more control over their hard-earned dollars and to protect their freedom of speech, but this bill would force them to donate to political candidates and causes they may not agree with and limits their ability to voice their opinions in the public arena unimpeded,” Joyce added. “Democrats try claim HR 1 is ‘for the people,’ but in reality, this bill favors no one other than politicians and the Washington status quo. In fact, we sent out a poll to my constituents on this issue and 84 percent of 1,600 people who participated in it agreed with my position. The legislation also had provisions that could allow illegal immigrants to vote in some circumstances.”

Another amendment of the bill is lower the voting age to 16 years old, or at the very least, make it easier for 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, something Joyce voted against.

“My vote against an amendment allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote ahead of their 18th birthday was because such a measure would increase the costs of the state voter systems as voter rolls would include those who are eligible and ineligible to vote,” he said. “I voted against lowering the voting age to 16 because I believe there is a certain level of experience that should be required to vote and I see no reason to change the current age.”