Friday, January 13, 2012

Greetings From the Pennsylvania Farm Show!

This year, one of my New Year's resolutions was to post more on this blog; what better way to start working on that resolution than by taking a trip to the 96th annual Pennsylvania Farm Show?
On Wednesday, we packed up the car and took a trip to Harrisburg to take in the sights and sounds (and tastes) of Pennsylvania farming at it's finest. The PA Farm Show is the largest indoor agriculture expo in the country with an attendance of about 400,000 people yearly. When we arriv
ed, it seemed like all of those 400,000 people were there at once. 
There is fried fungus among us. 
The car ride was over two and a half hours long and the baby needed to eat (yeah, the baby...) so when we got there we decided to explore the Food Court first. So did everyone else evidently but that was okay. Although crowded, the lines were fast and there were plenty of places to stand and eat. In fact, the long tables that were set up for eating actually promoted conversation between strangers. Strangers whose camaraderie began and ended with which vendor they purchased their meal from and "Wow I'm going to that stand for dinner!" I decided to honor Pennsylvania's foremost fungus, the mushroom. Thanks to the PA Mushroom Growers Cooperative, I was able to enjoy some deep fried breaded mushrooms and a chaser of some cream of mushroom soup. I know, much mushrooms but the proceeds go to the American Mushroom Institute which supports mushroom growers throughout the country. In fact, the income from all of the food court fair goes to support the various Pennsylvania Agricultural Commodity Organizations and we were going to help as many of them as our waistlines allowed. Sarah and Ethan did their part to help the PA Potato Growers Cooperative with their copious consumption of fresh cut french fries. Sarah also helped me with my mushroom bounty. It was a farm show family affair indeed.
After lunch it was off to the Large Arena for some Kids Tractor Pulling and Tractor appreciation. We didn't arrive in time to enter Ethan into the Tractor Pulling, but it was cute to watch young kids peddling their hearts out to win a tractor toy and the affection and adulation of the audience. While that was going on we decided to tour the infield and appreciate all of the various tractors lined up for the Tractor Square Dance. No, we didn't see the actual square dance (would have been nice) but we did see some fine pieces of machinery, I tell you what:

After much tractor appreciation, it was time to seek out some livestock. We promised Ethan animals on this trip and he was not to be trifled with. Good for us that this expo did not want for animals. As long as you could tolerate the odor, you could mingle with cows and chickens and turkeys and pigs and goats and get the picture. Never had I seen so many cows in one place in my life. It was utterly ridiculous (yep, I went there). Ethan was bombarded with bovines; at one point a cow hit him in the face with it's tail. I guess that was the cow's way of telling him to moooove over. The cows didn't have to tell us...if I ever see a cow poop again in my life, it will be too soon. Ethan liked that part however, and demanded throughout the rest of the day to see more cows "pooping and peeing". On a more serious note, when you go to the Farm Show, you can't help but learn about the aspects of farming that you usually take for granted. Continuing with the cows, we were surprised to learn that there are 7,304 dairy farms in Pennsylvania, home to over 541,000 dairy cows. Of those dairy farms, 98% of them are family owned and operated. This information was provided by the PA Dairymen's Association, as well as fried cheese cubes on a stick (that was dinner, along with pulled pork nachos...slimming). Moovelous! (I know, definitely going overboard).

Gladys, I wish this guy would stop taking pictures of us.

After cows came chickens, goats, rabbits, alpacas (yes, alpacas)...there were so many animals I can't chronicle them all - this would be less of a blog post and more of a novel. We went without consulting a map and it seemed like whenever you thought you were at the end of a hall there would be an opening to another was endless. All I have mentioned so far is the animals and as we all know, farming in Pennsylvania also consists of fruits and vegetables. And of course, with over 10,000 exhibitions we were bound to come across some of their offerings. Little did we know, we would also come across an old friend of the feed...Ben Wenk (actually we did know, he has been regaling his Facebook followers all week of his Farm Show exploits. It was more of a little did we know if we could find him). We caught up with him on the Main Floor selling, you guessed it, apples! 
Ben was splitting time between his Main Hall apple selling and the food court where he was dishing out apple dumplings, caramel apples, dried apples...pretty much anything apple under the sun. Ben's fruitful labor (ha ha, I'm on a roll) was on behalf of the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania (SHAP) and its major benefactor, the Penn State College of Agricultural Science Fruit Research Extension Centerlocated in Biglerville, PA, which happens to be in Ben's backyard. From their website: "In addition to providing site-specific conditions for research, the facility increases opportunities for growers, consultants, consumers, and students to observe experiments and to consult with scientists. Extension specialists apply experimental findings to local conditions, and, in turn, make suggestions to scientists about new research needs." For the laymen reading (and writing) this post, centers like this one help ensure the best quality fruit hits our lips through research, experiments and information sharing. For those who just think farmers' only spend part of year at their craft, Ben Wenk is an example of how that just isn't so. Next time you see him at the Headhouse, thank him for his commitment. I was thanking him on the way home while I was chowing down on a famous Three Springs Fruit Farm Honeycrisp Apple.

Speaking of fruits and vegetables, I would be remiss if I didn't talk about all the various pumpkins we saw at the Show. We love pumkins in this house whether for ornamental purposes or for cooking. We have been making pumpkin muffins with blueberries from the summer all winter long. In honor of those muffins, Ethan posed with a pumpkin that would have us making muffins between now and when Chelsea Clinton is President.

So there you have it. I mean, I could write so much more but I'm going to let some more photos tell the story. It was really a great time for our family at the Farm Show. If you have a chance to check it out this weekend, it's worth the trip. Pennsylvania farmers are the best and this Farm Show proves it!


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