The rolling farmland of Lancaster County serves as a daily reminder of our longstanding connection to agriculture. This month the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture invites you to “Imagine the Opportunities” as you wander the 104th annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
There is certainly a lot to imagine – farm show attendees will be able to peruse more than 10,000 exhibits, gaze upon 6,000 competition animals, marvel at 300 commercial exhibits and, of course, indulge at the infamous food court. Last year, more than 500,000 visitors passed through the event, taking a closer look at how our food journeys from farm to fork.
With the show spread across 11 buildings – taking up a whopping 23 acres – it’s officially become known as the country’s “largest agricultural exhibition under one roof.”
The farm show will run January 4-11. While admission to the show is free, keep in mind there is a $15 fee for parking at the Farm Show Complex. You may need to park at one of the show’s satellite parking lots, but not to worry, free shuttle service is provided constantly throughout the show.
Before the show officially opens, the annual 1,000-pound butter sculpture is scheduled to be unveiled on Thursday, January 2. The food court will be opening early as well, starting at noon on Friday, January 3. Speaking of food, another hot ticket is the PA Preferred Reception that will be held Friday evening. It serves as a showcase for the finest foods and beverages that are grown/produced in the state. (Tickets are required.)
The first stop for us is typically the baby chicks and baby ducks. My kids absolutely love them, particularly the baby ducks playing on their miniature waterslide. Then, we’ll make our way to the Main Hall, which is home to the Culinary Connection Stage, where notable chefs turn fresh meats and vegetables into delicious dishes before your eyes. Nearby you’ll find the farmers market, which is stocked with unique ingredients, sauces, spices and so much more. All are produced right here in Pennsylvania.
Craft beer has also been making a splash at the Farm Show. Did you know that Pennsylvania ranks as the No. 1 state in craft beer production? According to the Brewers Association, the state’s 354 craft breweries produced more than 3.7 million barrels in 2018.
Last year, 262 beers went head to head in the first-ever beer competition at the Farm Show. The competition will be returning this year, allowing brewers to enter their brews in 15 different categories. (While samples will be available at the Farm Show, these fresh brews won’t be available for purchase.)
Another Farm Show newbie I expect to encounter more of this year is hemp. The Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council first brought hemp back to the show in 2018. Last year, the number of stands promoting hemp-based products grew, but most of them were still forced to import the hemp used in their products. With changes to both state and federal regulations in 2019, the industry has seen a real boom this year, which I suspect will be evident at this year’s show.
The Farm Show is open daily from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. (most days). It is held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, 2300 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg. Be sure to check out the full schedule of events and other useful information at farmshow.pa.gov.