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Celebrating Diversity at the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show
Written by Sergei Blair, Correspondent

Annual show highlights the best of state's agriculture industry

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            Even the bitter cold temperatures couldn't keep visitors away from attending the opening of the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show, now in its 102nd season.

            The show got off to a chilly start as people were seen running toward the doors of the massive Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg to avoid wind and the biting cold. Inside, before the official start of the weeklong farm show, hundreds of vendors and exhibitors placed finishing touches at their stands while others groomed their farm animals for upcoming judging contests.

            It's estimated that around 500,000 visitors would come to the state's largest agricultural show by the time it wraps up Saturday, January 13.

            The fan favorite butter sculpture, inside the giant glass refrigerator, reflected

this year's theme, "Strength in Our Diversity." It wowed spectators as they crowded around the half-ton sculpture to snap pictures. This year's butter sculpture project was sponsored by the American Dairy Association North East (ADANE) and was commissioned to highlight the state's growing dairy industry.

            Farm animals of all shapes and sizes are an integral part of the show's attraction. From sleepy pigs, to curious alpacas, to stubborn heifers, animals hurriedly led by ropes through the busy crowds to be on time at certain stations for a particular judging contest or demonstration.  

            The official start of the show began with a youth choir singing the national anthem; cattle owners at the Northwest Hall paused from grooming their stock and faced the American flag at attention. The Cattle's faint mooing and grunting noise provided background harmony as children's voices echoed through the loudspeakers throughout the complex.

            This year, the nation's largest agricultural show features 6,000 animals, more than 10,000 competitive exhibits, and serves as display center for 300 commercial exhibitors. The eight-day event celebrates Pennsylvania as an economic powerhouse due partly to its vibrant agricultural industry. According to the latest statistics from the state Department of Agriculture, there are more than 58,000 farms across the state which, in combined total, bring in staggering $7.5 billion each year.

            "The power of agriculture is transformative. I've seen that potential in Pennsylvania, and we've worked hard under my administration to invest in and grow this industry," Governor Tom Wolf said as he delivered his remarks during the kick off ceremony. He was joined by Lt. Governor Mike Stack, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and U.S. Senator Bob Casey, among other dignitaries.

            Aside from the usual food judging competitions, children's activities, and the popular duckling slippery slide, visitors were treated to several new attractions this year with displays that feature an alternative farming, a hemp exhibit and a cow birthing center, where they can observe a step-by-step process as cows give birth right in front of them.

            In addition to many other exhibits, visitors are given a glimpse into revolutionary green farming method that involves raising fish and growing crop at the same time. The integrated process, dubbed as Aquaponics Cycle, is demonstrated as a walking exhibit that shows how the fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants, as those plants naturally filter the water for the fish. People will be surprised to see plants grown in float beds with their roots suspended in nutrient-rich water and produce the same harvest as they would if grown in healthy soil.

            To add in a little fun, the state's Historical and Museum Commission has put up replicas of 24 historical markers throughout the complex. Visitors are encouraged to pick up a copy of the scavenger hunt guide and follow instructions that lead them further to all the marked locations, all as they learn about the diversity of the state's agricultural and rural heritage. If completed and submitted during their visit, they will be entered to win a family prize pack. 

            The farm show runs through Jan. 6 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, January 13, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $15. Shuttle service is available.

            For more information, visit www.farmshow.pa.gov. 





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