Every year, it’s the same different thing. The Pennsylvania Farm Show comes to town. For one week, all of us that don’t live on farms can walk between the stalls, admiring the stance of one bovine versus the next. We can run our fingers through the soft fluffy down of a Teddy Bear Alpaca, and marvel at how different the Suri looks. Think perm versus dreadlocks. Add there’s the rabbits and the chickens and the horses, oh my. And we arrive in droves. We park offsite and take the shuttle bus for the chance to be part of something most of us don’t see everyday.
At the Farm Show, we readily stand in line for a milkshake. Vanilla, chocolate, or a very striking half ‘n half. Four dollars per shake, and the dollar change from that five dollar bill can be easily placed in the jar promising eight glasses of milk for a child in need. We see the Pennsylvania Dairy Association in action. Volunteers are smiling and passing cups forward as quickly as the machine churns the milk and ice cream together. It’s a Farm Show tradition.
With senior citizen (my Dad) and college student (my girl) in tow, we troop up and down aisles, admiring farm equipment, artwork, and the best-in-show apples. We filled up on PA-grown sweet potatoes and snagged a bag of potato donuts for dessert. We saw the Pennsylvania Dairy Princess and tossed our donation in the jar to provide milk for those that needed it.
Surrounded by locals and not-so-locals, we had all come together in admiration of an agricultural life that was once common across our country. Every year at Farm Show, we are reminded that food doesn’t just show up at the local market. Entire families hang their livelihoods on the job of feeding our community. I grew up in a farming community. There were chores and lots of kids to share the load. The school bus ride is a lot longer in a rural community, and Hughie the bus driver would always give the kids an extra moment or two to make it down the long driveways cut through the middle of the field to make it to the bus. I miss those days, hanging out in the barn. You can see that’s the way it still is for many families. Just take a look at the camps set up at the show. Farming isn’t something they do, farming is who they are.
The Farm Show is over until next winter. But come Spring, the local farmers markets will open their doors again. Roadside stands will hang out their wooden signs, offering produce of the day and an honor box for us to pay for our homegrown treasures. If you’re lucky enough, you might actually get to meet some of the folks that work so hard to provide those beautiful apples and sun-blushed pears. You might meet the gentleman who grows those incredible golden peaches, and his dad who still contributes by running the farm stand. You may want to check out my personal favorite, Yellow Hill Farm in Biglerville, PA. Natalie and Craig Bishop grow the biggest, sweetest, most-purple thornless blackberries anywhere. Period.
If you do, make certain to take a look around at the splendor beside you, and appreciate the old barn that’s been in the family for generations. And make sure you say thank you.