Much of Farm Show About Educating Nonfarmers

12/29/2012 7:00 AM

It’s that time of year again. While most people have been concentrating on Christmas and New Year’s activities, the agriculture industry and Pennsylvania farmers have been gearing up for the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Family gatherings and trips to relatives’ houses are planned around the need to prepare for Farm Show.

While many agree the audience that flows through the Farm Show has changed over the years, opinions vary on the effectiveness of reaching the agriculture sector there.

However, as an ag industry one of our biggest challenges is properly educating the public about where their food comes from and what it is we do on the farm. The Pennsylvania Farm Show presents a wonderful opportunity to do that.

A large number of business and industry organizations have joined together to present Today’s Agriculture, an exhibit that offers a lesson in modern farm practices through a behind-the-scenes view of modern farm facilities, livestock and crops.

Organizations provide consumer education on the nutritional value and attributes of farm products. PA Preferred vendors temp the public with tasty samples as they seek to market their products.

Agriculture organizations literally sell tons of food items in the food court. The Culinary Connection wows crowds with dishes filled with Pennsylvania ingredients. All play a valuable role in promoting agriculture to the public at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

As livestock owners young and old prepare animals for show they answer passer-by questions. Owners are astonished as they realize the general public’s lack of agriculture knowledge, knowledge that is second nature to the animal handler.

The Challenges

The most nerve-racking part of the Farm Show is trying to move livestock through these same crowds. Many walking the aisles of the Farm Show do not see the danger due to that same lack of animal knowledge.

Experienced seasoned livestock handlers, the animal owners do their best to keep animals away from the people and heaven forbid the strollers with little ones in.

However everyone knows the animals are as nervous as many of the spectators since they have not experienced throngs of people out on the farm.

Therefore, shouts of “heads up pigs coming through” ring through the barn. Unknowing spectators look up as if the handler is being rude when in fact they are trying to keep the crowds safe.

The loud voice is needed more today then yesteryear for the same underlying reason; today’s audience does not have the agriculture background of spectators of years gone by.

The Farm Show’s audience has changed over the years, and many organizations and commercial exhibitors wisely utilize the Farm Show as an educational opportunity to purvey a powerful message about Pennsylvania agriculture to those not fortunate enough to obtain that knowledge at home.

For the rest of us, it continues to be a reunion of agriculture friends and acquaintances from across Pennsylvania gathering around show boxes discussing everything from family to the world’s problems.

In between conversations, we too educate the public as questions are answered, and yes even shouts of “stand aside pigs coming through” bring real-life lessons to those without livestock experience.

Darlene Livingston is executive director of Pennsylvania Farm Link, which strives to encourage the next generation of farmers through educational resources and assistance at or 717-705-2121.

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