Pennsylvania farm show opens

HARRISBURG – Caitlynn Fonseca says it’s “all in the family.”

Fonseca, 16, a junior at Williamsburg High School and a member of the Blair County 4-H and Williamsburg FFA Chapter, will show her unnamed Hampshire swine Monday at the 98th Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

Fonseca said she is following in the footsteps of her mother Michelle Welch and Uncle Rob Stultz who showed animals while in 4-H.

Fonseca has been showing swine for eight years, and in 2013, she showed the grand champion pig at the Blair County 4H/FFA Livestock Show and sale and was named senior showman at the event.

Showing an animal at the farm show is different.

“I think it is special. Not everyone gets to do it. It is very good experience and it is fun to do,” Fonseca said. “I wouldn’t say he is the best. I am not sure how well he will do.”

Michael Caretti, 13, a seventh-grade student at Cambria Heights Junior High and member of the Clover Club 4-H of Ebensburg, is a veteran in showing animals. He has been showing them since the age of 8.

The son of Chris and Jane Caretti of Patton was showing “Dodge,” an 88-pound Boer goat in the market class goat competition.

On Saturday, Caretti won third place in the market class goat competition and was named master showman for the second consecutive year.

“I enjoy doing this because I get to be with my friends and my sister does it too. It feels pretty good,” Caretti said.

The theme of the eight-day show, which features 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors, is “Pennsylvania Farms: Growing for You.”

“We want people to know how farmers grow the food we eat and about the economy, agriculture provides one in seven jobs and a $68 billion economic impact.

“Farmers are growing Pennsylvania in more ways than one,” said Nicole Bucher, agriculture department spokeswoman.

“Pennsylvania’s more than 62,000 farm families and thousands of agribusinesses provide an affordable food supply, keep money in local communities and create jobs,” Agriculture Secretary George Greig said in a statement. “The Farm Show is a celebration of their contributions, from the competitive exhibits and demonstrations to the famous food court.”

Another large crowd is expected to attend the show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex.

“For the past several years attendance has been steadily increasing. Last year we had a record attendance with about 580,000 visitors and we expect that trend to continue this year,” Bucher said. “Those who come to the show are a cross section of Pennsylvania. I think a lot of people have pride in the farm show, not just about what it stands for. It is also an educational opportunity and it is a family event. People come back year after year. It is a family tradition.”

The purpose of the event is to “celebrate Pennsylvania agriculture,” Bucher said.

The 98th farm show includes some new attractions.

“My favorite new event will be the rabbit hopping competition at 3:30 p.m. [today] in the small arena,” Bucher said. “Celebrity guides will lead trained rabbits. It is like a horse steeplechase event on a much smaller scale.”

Another new event will be a dairy oxen demonstration from 8 to 10 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday.

“This is great for people who are interested in the history of the country. They will learn how settlers used dairy steers to build the nation,” Bucher said.

Must see events are the food court and the Sheep to Shawl competition at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

“It is very exciting and packs the arena. They take the wool off the sheep and turn it into shawls,” Bucher said.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is hosting a variety of activities, including children-friendly activities in its exhibit area.

“The Farm Show provides farmers a perfect location to meet people from cities, the suburbs and rural communities to discuss farm practices and food production,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer in a statement. “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.

“The next generation of farmers and others interested in agricultural related careers, such as 4-H and FFA members, will also be on hand to participate in a wide range of competitions throughout the farm show,” Shaffer said.

The farm show continues from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. today 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.