STRASBURG, Pa. — It was a reverse whistle-stop campaign. Instead of the train coming to the people, the people went to the train — the Strasburg Railroad, to be exact, the oldest operating steam-powered short-line railroad in the U.S.
Some 200 people were guests of the Lancaster County Agriculture Council, a 2-year-old organization looking to increase awareness in the farming community of the work it’s doing on behalf of agriculture.
The railroad donated three Victorian-era passenger cars for the evening event on Aug. 22. The passengers, which included many families with young children, were all aboard by 5:30 for the clickety-clacking swaying four-mile ride to the end of the line in Ronks, where steam locomotive No. 89 unhooked from the passenger cars, changed directions, and moved to the other end of the train for a short ride to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, where the group was met by Cherry Crest owner Jack Coleman and his staff.
There was a big tent. There was food by Enck’s Catering. There were speeches. There was an auction of items donated by ag council members who also did most of the buying.
Auctioned items included the very practical (ratcheting tie-down straps), the collectible (lots of scale-model farm toys), the informative (four-year subscriptions to Lancaster Farming) and the somewhat whimsical (breakfast for four at the Oregon Dairy Farm Restaurant with Lancaster County Commissioner Dennis Stuckey).
Proceeds from the auction will be used to support the work of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Mobile Ag Ed Science Lab, which visits elementary and middle schools throughout Pennsylvania during the school year.
Students in grades K-8 use the lab to conduct ag-based experiments designed to make them more aware of how food, fiber and even plastics make their way from the farm to the home.
Scott Sheeley, the ag council’s executive director, said he was pleased with the turnout, which was about double what he had anticipated. And he was pleased with the attendees’ reactions to the short, punchy presentations by the speakers who represented the council’s three main constituents — production agriculture, agribusiness and government/nonprofit groups that support Lancaster County farming.