Lackawanna County Farmer Earns Distinguished Service Award

Richard Pallman grew up knowing the hard work of farm life, and the love of working in the family business.

But his journey in agriculture took Pallman beyond the farm gate.

Pallman’s work in agriculture, both as a volunteer with Farm Bureau, and later while working for the Farm Service Agency, benefited Pennsylvania farmers.

Pallman’s work in agriculture was recognized by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, who named him the winner of the 2013 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. Pallman received the award at PFB’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Hershey.

Pallman also served on Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s State Board of Directors for eight years, and prior to that as president of the Wyoming/Lackawanna County Farm Bureau.

“It was an honor just to be nominated for the award, and very humbling to have received the award,” Pallman said. “I greatly appreciate it. I would not have been able to do this without the support of my family.”

“Rich Pallman has been involved in farming all of his life and has done an outstanding job representing the agriculture industry and the needs of farmers across the state.  He also played a critical role in negotiating changes to labor laws involving seasonal workers, which helped preserve numerous fruit and vegetable operations across the state,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer.

Pallman was raised in Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County and spent his early years working on his father’s turkey farm.

Over the years, Pallman Farms has grown and changed to include a pick-your-own strawberry operation. From the late 1970s until 2000, Pallman Farms was one of the largest tomato growers in Pennsylvania.

Tomato growers rely on a steady source of labor for planting and harvest. Like much of agriculture, those growers have utilized foreign-born workers to help with the farm work.

Pallman played key roles in lobbying federal lawmakers to reform the nation’s agriculture immigration system in the 1990s.

Pallman chaired Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Labor Committee for 10 years, and also served on the American Farm Bureau Federation Labor Advisory Committee for one year. During that time, Pallman made numerous visits to Washington D.C. to work with lawmakers and regulators on commonsense immigration reform.

For Pallman, those visits meant time away from the farm. But he knows the effort was worthwhile.

“As I look back, I know there were times I didn’t think we were making much headway,” he said. “There was a lot of work involved and I know it benefited many people in the fruit and vegetable industry.”

In 2001, Pallman was nominated by President George W. Bush as the State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency in Pennsylvania. During his time, Pallman used his business judgment to streamline offices and bring efficiencies to the agency.

Pallman is now semi-retired but continues to help his brothers Bruce and Brian operate Pallman Farms.  The farm raises and processes more than 8,500 turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, continuing a tradition started by Pallman’s father.