Secret Lives of Staff: Meet Teri DeAngelo, grape farmer

There’s so much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see them doing on campus. In this occasional series, we take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time. 

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

Most Penn Staters say they bleed blue-and-white. In the case of Teri DeAngelo, records specialist in the Registrar’s office, the colors might be just a shade off.

Grapes are in DeAngelo’s blood, and come September every year, the fourth-generation farmer bleeds purple and white as she helps her husband, Paul, harvest more than 150 acres of Concord and Niagara grapes from their vineyards.

A year’s worth of work comes down to this: six weeks of harvest, typically beginning in late September when the grapes have reached a certain ripeness and have the minimum sugar content required by the processor. The DeAngelos sell most of their crops to Welch Foods in North East, which presses them into juice, jelly, and more.

There is science (sugar testing) involved in determining the right time to harvest, but anyone with any sense of smell who drives through eastern Erie County along Lake Erie this time of year can tell you that it’s picking time. The aroma of ripening grapes hangs in the air along the 60-mile Concord grape belt that stretches from Erie County in Pennsylvania to Chautauqua County in New York.

A Family Affair

The DeAngelo’s farm, which sits on 99 acres in Harborcreek with an additional 82 leased acres, has been in Teri DeAngelo’s family for more than 100 years.

“My great-grandparents purchased the farm in 1911 and it’s been passed down through the family since then. We bought it from my parents in 2005.”

By day, Teri works in the Registrar’s office at Behrend, supporting all of the work involved in scheduling classes, rooms, and final exams and assisting students with schedule changes. At home, she pitches in on the farm wherever she is needed.

Teri and Paul’s teenage children—Paul III, 18, and Molly, 15—help too.

“Paul III helps with some tractor work and sugar testing during harvest, and both kids help with baling hay,” she said. “My role on the farm is managing the bookkeeping/tax records. I tie grapes, drive a tractor, and sugar test. And, of course, I help with the baling in the summer. Everybody bales hay.”

baling hay

The hay is for the beef cows, which the DeAngelos raise for themselves and their families.

We caught up with Teri to learn more about her life off campus:

What do you like about grape farming? I enjoy the history, the heritage, and the traditions. I enjoy having roots. I love that we have acres of land with creeks and woods for the kids to roam.

What’s the hardest thing about farming? Being dependent on the weather.

What’s a hidden benefit of farming? Being close to God and nature. Your work is right outside your door.

How many people work on the farm? Our employees are seasonal, but we have between 12-15 people each year.

What is your biggest worry about the farm? Spring frosts and invasive pests. We’re especially worried about the spotted lantern fly. It’s making its way to our area and it could, potentially, wipe out acres of grapes at a time. PSA: If you spot one (this is what they look like), please report it right away.

How large is your harvest? Last year, we picked more than 1,200 tons of Concord grapes and more than 120 tons of Niagara grapes.

What would people be surprised to know about farming? It is not easy. My father always said, “if farming were easy, everyone would do it.” My husband has such vast knowledge on everything from weather patterns to chemicals to machinery – it’s a higher education earned through experience!

What is your favorite way to eat grapes? Do you make wine or jelly? My family likes them right off the vine. Sadly, we have failed miserably at making wine in the past, and I leave the processing to Welch’s—their jelly, jam, juice, and fruit snacks are the best!

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Penn State announces Peace Corps Prep certificate program

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

Did you know that the Peace Corps, the international volunteer service organization, would not have come into being without college students?

“During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy made a late-night stop at the campus of the University of Michigan,” said Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics at Penn State Behrend. “He made an off-hand remark inquiring whether the college students there would be willing to serve in a developing country. It would have been a forgotten campaign speech, except that the students organized and sent a petition with hundreds of signatures asking for the opportunity to serve others and their country.”

Hall served after his undergraduate years, and his time in the corps remains a transformative life experience, so much so that forty years later, he regularly encourages Behrend students to consider joining, helps raise awareness of the organization on campus, and staffs a recruiting table at Behrend’s twice-yearly Career and Internship Fair.

“The Peace Corps is a great opportunity to learn about another culture, to develop one’s talents, and to be of service to people in a developing nation,” Hall said. “An example of the impact possible is Alejando Toledo, the former President of Peru, who said ‘I am one of sixteen brothers and sisters. Born in extreme, extreme poverty… I’m the first president of indigenous descent who had been democratically elected in 500 years in South America. To a large extent thanks to the Peace Corps.’”

“While none of my former students in Malaysia became a president,” Hall said, “I did help the children of subsistence farmers and fishermen become teachers and nurses who in turn contributed to education and health care in places where it was scarce.”

Hall is proof that the Peace Corps stays with you. A few years ago, he even returned to Borneo to catch up with some of his former students.

That’s why he’s excited about a new partnership between the Peace Corp and Penn State to offer a preparatory program for students interested in volunteering.

Peace Corps Prep is a certificate program for undergraduate students of any major. Students who participate in the program gain skills and experiences that make them attractive candidates for the corps or any form of international or service work. The inaugural cohort will begin this fall semester.

Accepted students will build their coursework around one of six strategic competencies that the Peace Corps seeks in its volunteers. The program requires students to complete a set number of field hours in their chosen competency area, take globally minded classes, show language competency, and engage in career-related activities.

Interested students are required to complete an online interest form by October 16, 2020 to be considered for the inaugural cohort. Program requirements, application information, and more can be found at https://studentsaffairs.psu.edu/career/peace-corps-prep.

While the certificate program does not guarantee acceptance in the Peace Corps, it will help to provide participants with a competitive advantage.

ABOUT THE PEACE CORPS

Peace Corps mission: to promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Volunteers serve for twenty-seven months in areas such as health, education, environment, agriculture, community economic development, and youth in development.

Jonathan Hall and Wan Masa
Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics at Penn State Behrend, and a former colleague, Wan Masa, who taught with Hall in North Borneo forty years ago.