PA Americana Farms show their stuff at Pennsylvania Farm Show
By Bryan Hay
Like most people, I can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness with the passing of the holidays, but the Pennsylvania Farm Show always inspires another surge of anticipation and helps extend the season with a weeklong celebration of the state’s mighty agriculture industry.
It’s the best kind of sensory overload at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg. My wife and I always admire the smells and sights, from folks snuggling next to their prize bovine in a straw-stuffed stall to goats reaching out for a pat on the head and chickens so cocky and dazzling they’d be welcome members of any Mummers Fancy Brigade.
Every year, it’s hard to miss the entries from across Pennsylvania’s Americana Region. Berks County has been well-represented with more than 400 entries in recent years, and organizers expect about the same turnout when the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show opens on January 6, 2018.
“In those 400 entries you always have a lot of entries in the 6th to 10th place categories and an awful lot of first places,” says Farm Show spokesman Will Nichols. “Berks County brings a lot of top quality stuff to the farm show each year.”
In fact, Berks County leads the state for acres of farmland preserved in the state’s farmland preservation program and at 729 preserved farms ranks a close second to neighboring Lancaster County, which has 839 preserved farms in all farmland preservation programs.
“There’s a huge commitment by the folks in Berks County to their farming industry and to balance the needs of its citizens and other industries with the needs of its impressive agriculture industry,” Nichols says.
Farmers in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region benefit from a combination of a strong allegiance to vocational and 4-H training and the area’s topography and rich limestone soil, says Clyde A.B. Myers, a member of the Berks County Agricultural Land Preservation Board.“As a result of this we have a large variety of commodities,” he says.
Berks County is second only to Chester County for culinary mushrooms and also has a strong showing in dairy, poultry and fruit production, as well as a sizeable Christmas tree industry. Soybeans, corn, and hay are also big, says Myers, who served as a Penn State Extension educator in Berks County for 30 years.
Berks County is blessed with a large swath of fertile limestone soil in the Oley Valley and the rolling hills of shale areas along the Blue Mountain ridge that support orchards, vineyards, cattle, sheep grazing, and the poultry industry, he adds. Poultry production is also a growing industry in Berks County, Myers says, noting that the Joe Jurgielewicz & Son duck farm in Tilden Township supplies restaurants up and down the East Coast.
All of this bounty is possible “because Berks County has done a great job preserving its farms,” Myers says. “We’ve done good work to make sure our zoning and land use laws strike the right balance and support a strong agriculture industry.” So come on out to the Pennsylvania Farm Show and take pride in all of the quality food our state produces. And give a special thanks if you come across a farmer or exhibitor from Pennsylvania’s Americana Region.