RUSH TWP. — Pennsylvania Agriculture Department Secretary Russell Redding wants to increase organic production in the state.

He came to the Organic Farmer Field Day and Appreciation Event Thursday hosted by Boyd Station, near Riverside, to find out how the state can help organic farmers.

"Consumers want to know where their food comes from. It is important to Pennsylvania to leverage PA Preferred and organic production increases," he said.

Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation among organic farm-level sales with California a strong No. 1, he said. 

"I believe with poultry and hogs there is an opportunity for Pennsylvania organic feed producers," he said. Producers are currently located in the Midwest, the West or internationally.

He spoke about the state facilitating production of organic products, particularly grain. The farm bill passed in June provides support for organic production growth, he said.

This was the first time Boyd Station, founded in 2003, hosted the event, which drew about 120 people including organic farmers from 12 states as far as Iowa and Georgia, said Spencer Miller, organic grain manager at Boyd Station. The Boyd Station is owned by Bryan Cotner, his brother, Russ Cotner, their sister, Shannon Shultz, and their dad, Don Cotner.

Boyd Station processes organic soy meal for poultry for Bell & Evans in Fredericksburg.

Bryan Cotner said Boyd Station is the largest buyer in the U.S. of organic soybeans. 

Pennsylvania has a large initiative to transition farms to organic for potentially more profit, he said. 

Boyd Station contracts directly with farmers in Pennsylvania and throughout the country and is trying to find more, he said.

"The organic markets are growing extremely rapidly and we are doing our best to keep up and do it all domestically," he said. His company operates three shifts.

Miller said Boyd Station, which employs 55, buys all of its organic soybeans domestically. 

They also have a soybean nonorganic extruded metal operation. They buy soybeans domestically, including from farmers in Lancaster, Montour and Snyder counties, Miller said.

Boyd Station has a refinery where oil from soybeans is processed into organic salad dressing and snacks for people, Miller said. 

The company also buys organically-grown corn that is mixed with organic soybeans for chicken feed. 

Among those attending was Jeremy Erb, of Milton, who said he is an organic green farmer and raises soybeans, corn, oats, wheat, spelts, barley and alfalfa hay. He started to transition his 400-acre operation in 2005 and became certified in 2008. Erb sells some soybeans to Boyd Station. 

"I am here to observe and learn from other farmers. The market is growing. We sell to a lot of other farmers for feed," he said.

Their wheat and spelts go to a mill in Halifax to be processed into flour for human consumption, he said.