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​2018 Pennsylvania Farm Show: Strength in Our Diversity

December 21, 2017 12:00 AM
By: Shannon Powers

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This is the 102nd year of the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and if you ask 102 Pennsylvanians what the Farm Show experience means to them, you’re likely to get 102 wildly different answers. That’s part of the inspiration behind this year’s theme: “Strength in Our Diversity.”

“The agriculture industry is Pennsylvania’s crowning jewel, with its many facets on display every year at the Farm Show,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Just like a jewel, agriculture reflects something different from every angle, and it changes as you look at it in different light.”

This year, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Farm Show Foundation invite you to look at agriculture from different angles and consider diverse perspectives as you enjoy all the Farm Show has to offer.

Consider agriculture through the eyes of a child from the city, seeing a cow up-close for the first time, or learning how bees make honey, or finding out that their cuddly-soft sweater is made from the hair of a long-haired angora rabbit that looks like a furball – and watching the rabbit sit contentedly while its fur is spun into yarn.

While you’re at it, check out the joy of that urban child’s rural counterparts, all dressed up and parading their pride and joy around the show ring for the judge’s approval, and for the reward of a ribbon, a cash prize and bragging rights for the coming year. Nothing is more fun than watching a tiny girl in pink and sparkles, exerting her will over a spiffed-up hog that’s several times her size, then dancing with joy as she waves a blue ribbon around when the competition is over.

Keep your eye on the face of a middle-school student at the Ag 101 stage, enthralled by the newfound possibility of a high-tech career using agricultural drones to map crop productivity. And drink in the enthusiasm of an apiarist – that’s a beekeeper, in case you’re whipping out your dictionary – educating a crowd about the tremendous diversity of Pennsylvania crops and how that diversity benefits the bees that are so crucial to our food supply.

As you nibble prize-winning cheese samples and sip a famous Farm Show milkshake, consider the industry from the perspective of a dairy farmer, maintaining not just a family tradition, but a lifetime of investment he’s fighting to sustain in the face of a changing marketplace. Or explore an exhibit on how those same farmers work to produce renewable energy and improve the water supply not just for their own farms but the entire Mid-Atlantic region.

Witness the pride and the sheer determination that goes into the food on our tables, and take a moment to say hello, and thank you to the wide variety of farmers and producers who work so diligently to get it there.

Then check out the food and fiber that can be made from hemp, an experimental crop, researched this past year as a potentially viable and lucrative crop for PA farmers. Everything from skateboard decks and auto bodies to tasty cooking oil and soda pop – we guarantee your perspective on the potential of a simple plant will change.

As you take a minute to check out a chicken, cozy up to a cow, giggle at a goat, hug a horse or snuggle up to a bunny, take note of the diversity of each species of animal. From the funky-looking frizzle chicken to the iconic Holstein cow, and from the most delicate butterfly to the massive Percheron draft horse pulling thousands of pounds, the variety is endless.

Plants, you’ll find, are just as diverse — from the syrup-producing hard maples to festive Frazier firs, and from poinsettias to pumpkins and potatoes to pansies.

Whether it rolls off a hi-tech production line; is plucked from an indoor, urban aqua-culture farm; or picked lovingly and processed at a small family-owned orchard; or cut from the forest, hewn in a lumber mill, and crafted by a local artisan; or brewed to perfection in a craft microbrewery, the quality and diversity of Pennsylvania products made from those plants and animals are on display at the 2018 Farm Show.

You can explore the rich history of how each product came into being, and the vision of how they might be produced in the future, when the smallest Farm Show visitor finishes school and finds an array of agriculture jobs in-demand and waiting. Even if you’re already a food-lover, your perspective is sure to change.

For sheer entertainment’s sake, you can marvel at a working cowboy or cowgirl competing in a champion rodeo, watch a lumberjack show off his skills, learn to make a new dish under the skilled direction of a decorated chef, or watch teams of artisans create garments from the shearing process to finished shawl.

For inspiration, you can hear the story of a veteran who returned from service and put his hard-earned skills to work on a farm, meet a dedicated volunteer who has served visitors at Farm Shows since the 1960s. You can even witness the miracle of life, aided by a veterinarian in this year’s new Calving Corner birthing center.

The people of Pennsylvania agriculture are diverse and deeply inspirational in their stories, their struggles, their joys and their pride in what they produce.

So, even if you’ve been here before, take a fresh look at the 2018 Farm Show! Our industry is strong. Our Diversity is Our Strength.​​

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