Farm show begins

HARRISBURG – Today is an important day for Paige Pearson – and for her 151-pound crossbred Suffolk Hampshire lamb.

Pearson, 17, a junior at Williamsburg High School, will be among those competing today in the Junior Market Lamb Show at the 97th Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

The daughter of Lyle and Trisha Pearson is optimistic she – and her unnamed lamb – will do well in today’s competition.

“I hope he does pretty well. I am hopeful that I make sale. That is the main goal. I hope I will get to sell my lamb on Tuesday,” said Pearson, who is competing at the farm show for the fourth consecutive year.

“I have been showing lambs since I was 8 years old,” Pearson said. “I really like the competition, being around the animals and doing things with my parents. My brother [Wade] got me into this.”

Pearson finished second in her class last year, and previously finished third and fifth.

The eight-day show, the largest indoor agricultural exhibition in the nation, features 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors.

The theme of the 97th farm show is “Made in PA, It Makes a Difference.”

“If you buy locally, you are supporting local farmers and keeping your money at home,” said Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Nicole Bucher.

Before the show comes to an end Sunday, about 400,000 people are expected to visit the show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.

“It is a tradition. It is not January without the farm show. People like the food, the animals and the exhibits. It is a family friendly thing. The show offers a lot,” Bucher said. “Last year was a record-breaking year in the number of cars we parked but the numbers have been steady.”

The farm show is designed to promote the agriculture industry.

“It is also an educational opportunity and shows the public where their food comes from. Today there are less than 2 percent of the people involved in agriculture,” Bucher said. “It is a good opportunity to learn where your food is coming from.”

“The farm show proudly displays our state’s diverse agriculture industry through every step from farm to fork,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig in a statement. “Come experience local food and discover why this year’s theme is ‘Made in PA. It makes a difference.'”

Agriculture is the number one industry in Pennsylvania and generates about $57 million in economic impact, Bucher said.

The 97th farm show includes some new attractions.

“We have lots of new things every year. We try to keep it exciting. This year we have a new winery display in the Main Hall where the wineries offer tasting and you can buy their products. We have spruced up the display so it looks like a real tasting room,” Bucher said.

Another new attraction is the state Department of Environmental Protection’s “DEP at Home” exhibit in the Main Hall.

DEP at Home is an interactive, educational exhibit fashioned into a home structure that features practices and products promoting energy efficiency and sustainable building materials as well as environmentally friendly and Pennsylvania-produced products for the home.

Another new event will be cow patty bingo at 5:15 p.m. Monday in the large arena.

A “must see” event is the Sheep to Shawl contest at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the sale arena.

“Teams compete and shear wool off the sheep and turn it into a shawl in front of your eyes,” Bucher said. “The small arena is packed, and it is very exciting.”

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is hosting a variety of activities, including children-friendly activities, in its newly designed exhibit area in Exposition Hall near the main food court.

“The farm show provides farmers a perfect venue to meet people from large cities, rural communities and the suburbs to discuss farm practices and food production. Pennsylvania farmers are committed to reaching out to the public to better inform them about how farmers care for their animals, the environment and the food they produce,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer in a statement. “The next generation of farmers and others interested in agricultural related jobs, such as 4-H and FFA members, will also be on hand to participate in a wide range of competitions throughout the farm show.”

The farm show runs from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free and parking is $10. The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center is easily accessed from nearby Interstate 81.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.