The 'J's Have It

12/29/2012 7:00 AM
By Joyce Zimmerman Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

Large Family Prepares for Pa. Farm Show Over Holidays
REINHOLDS, Pa. — Many months of hard work and preparation on the part of exhibitors throughout the state come to a climax when the Pennsylvania Farm Show opens in Harrisburg each January, shortly after New Year’s Day. However, for animal exhibitors such as the Zimmerman family of Lancaster County, Pa., the work continues during the show as they juggle schedules, and feed, care for and groom an assortment of animals for a hodgepodge of shows.

In many ways, Jay and JoAnn Zimmerman are a typical middle-aged couple. Earlier in their married life they were able to purchase a small farm, which enabled their children to participate in county 4-H clubs, show animals at local fairs, and learn the daily responsibilities of caring for animals. Their three children, Jay, Jen and Jimmy, grew up active in 4-H and FFA, later married and blessed them with 7 grandchildren, now ages 2 to 11. According to JoAnn, that number is scheduled to increase to 11 grandchildren with the expected arrival of two sets of twins, one set due in April to daughter Jen and husband Bernell Oberholtzer, and another set in early July to son Jimmy and wife Tara.

Two sets of twins born in one family are definitely exciting, but not necessarily unusual. What is a bit uncommon in the Zimmerman family are the seven adopted children: Jayme, 18; Jessica, 16; Josh, 15; Jade, 13; Joe, 12; Jason, 12; and Judy, 6; all of whom have joined the family through the years. As the children were adopted, their names were changed to one beginning with the letter “J” in keeping with the family tradition.

“All the children have chores to do after school and on weekends,” said their mother. “Participating in 4-H and showing at fairs and the Farm Show are things we can all do together.”

In the Zimmerman household, preparations for the Farm Show begin weeks in advance. Animals must be fed, groomed, clipped and exercised for the big show. When it comes time for the week-long event, the children get special school excuses from the county Extension office.

“But we keep up with all our homework,” said 13-year-old Jade. “We usually have lots and lots of homework to do.”

To help make the week-long trip a bit more comfortable, the family drives their motor home to the show, using it as a home base for meals and overnight lodging.

“Some of the children will sleep in the barn with the sheep,” said JoAnn. “But we will be full in the camper every night with not only our children, but other members of the county 4-H Woolies club as well.”

During Farm Show week, father Jay holds down his job and cares for the animals at home.

“Sometimes it is the beginning of our lambing time,” he said. “But I usually end up making numerous trips back and forth between home and Harrisburg during the week.”

JoAnn does the majority of the cooking for everyone during the show.

“I like to make one-dish meals like spaghetti and chicken corn soup. It also takes lots of cookies, snacks and drinks,” she said, emphasizing the word “lots.”

“One of the other club member’s mother helps by making a wonderful taco salad, which is appreciated and enjoyed by everyone,” she added.

The Zimmermans are actively involved in three county 4-H clubs, the Red Rose Beef Club, the Woolies Club and the Lancaster County Swine Club.

When asked how many animals are going to the Farm Show, 12-year-old Joe replied, “A whole bunch.”

The breeds of choice for the siblings include Southdown, Horned Dorset and Shropshire sheep, along with crossbred, Yorkshire and Berkshire swine.

“Last year we tried something new,” said JoAnn. “Jade showed a steer at the show, and this year (she) and Joe both raised an Angus steer and will be showing them too.”

In addition to the Zimmerman children, three granddaughters will show market pigs and lambs, including Jen’s daughter, Emma, 7, and Jay’s daughters, Sierra, 11, and Hannah, 9.

“All the children are studying for the Outstanding Young Shepherd competition,” said JoAnn.

According to Jade, contestants try to garner the most points by identifying cuts of meat, equipment, feeds and parts of lamb.

“We try to get the Good Housekeeping Award too, and I am also running for Pennsylvania Angus Princess,” said Jade, stressing the fact that the Farm Show week will be a very busy one for the whole family.

“The children are getting show boxes ready and walking sheep almost every night,” said JoAnn. “It keeps us busy, but we know where they are and what they are doing.”

The Zimmerman’s agree: that makes it all worthwhile.


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