Exhibit tells farmers’ stories in their own words

HARRISBURG – Providing education is an important part of the 98th Pennsylvania Farm Show this week in Harrisburg.

The Today’s Agriculture” exhibit whose theme is “Today’s Agriculture – Opening Doors: Farming, Knowledge, Trust,” is designed for both the farmer and non-farmer.

The exhibit in the Weis Exposition Hall encompasses more than 13,000 square feet, including a specially constructed 84-foot long by 42-foot wide livestock barn and a variety of field crops (corn, soybeans and cover crops) in adjacent fields.

The exhibit, which is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Alliance for Livestock Care and Well-Being, highlights animal production practices and field crop production and provides an opportunity for visitors to learn more about farming and ask questions about topics in the news, such as genetically modified food or GMOs.

The livestock barn includes ten animal displays.

“They are replicas of what you would see in a chicken barn, a Hallandale egg farm, or a commercial Hatfield sow barn. The people get an opportunity to see what is in a barn and see exactly what happens,” sad Christian R. Herr, executive vice president of PennAg Industries, coordinator of the exhibit.

The interactive exhibit is designed to help answer questions for consumers.

“We believe it is important for consumers to see farm animals in their typical commercial production environment so they can learn more about how farmers feed a growing population by opening the doors to modern livestock and crop production. It’s also critical for the public to learn more about all the conservation practices implemented by farmers to protect the environment,” said Carl T. Shaffer, President of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, in a statement.

The exhibit also includes a well head.

“Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas. We have added a well head as part of the exhibit. It is part of the landscape of farms today,” Herr said.

Ninety-five percent of the visitors to the farm show are non-farmers. The exhibit gives those in agriculture a chance to tell their story.

“We tell them if they don’t tell the story in their words, someone will tell it for them,” Herr said. “We want to show people what happens in the barns and how we utilize the technology that has enabled agriculture to feed America and the world. It is all about transparency.”

Grain and animal exhibits are a part of the exhibit – which last year won the International Association of Fairs and Exposition Judges Choice Award for educating the public.

Dean Collamer, an agronomist with Growmark FS, which supplies fertilizer, seeds, lime, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and application services for the farmers, is available to answer questions.

“I am here to tell people what they are seeing and what the farmer is trying to do by using my products. I think it is important to tell our story,” Collamer said. “It is important to have agriculture have the trust of the general public, their neighbors and the consumer that what farmers are doing is OK and it is progressive, safe and not wrecking the environment.”‘

The veal industry – Pennsylvania is the largest veal producing state in America – is represented by Marcho Farms of Lansdale, which provides veal calves for farmers in several states.

Ryan Mattocks, a services representative, said Marcho Farms provides veal calves for farmers in Bedford, Cambria and Indiana counties.

“We take good care of the animals that are under our care, we provide the best nutrition and then provide the best care that we can,” Mattocks said. “Veal meat is sent all over the world. It is a good part of a healthy, balanced diet.”

The farm show continues from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. today through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 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.