by Steve Wagner
“Farm City Day is a unique event focused on improving the agricultural knowledge of students in grades two through five. Farm City Day features hands-on events, engaging displays and lots of fun. Held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, it has become increasingly popular and has proven to be a great opportunity to educate young minds on the importance of agriculture, held in conjunction with the Keystone International Livestock Exposition (KILE).
For the Harrisburg, PA area, the door was opened to children whose exposure to farm animals and farm life has often been minimal. It was not only a chance for the kids to experience a nearness to farm creatures but also to learn about other things like conservation, arts and crafts, and even “what I want to be when I grow up” professions. Wearing face masks, the kids got a chance to use stethoscopes, listening to another pupil’s hearts and lungs, just like real doctors.
There were triple the number of children at this year’s Farm City Day as there were last year. More than 1,700 schoolchildren experienced the agriculture industry through 24 learning stations, with extra time to explore the barns at KILE. Clusters of kids were sitting on the floor figuring out what to build with Lincoln logs, getting colored pipe cleaner bracelets put on their wrists or studying skulls of man through the ages, as well as skulls of cows, ponies and small bears. A walk through the Woodmobile is an educational waker-upper, as it offers ways for these students to be conservation-conscious.
Complete with farm show milkshakes, draft horse competitions and opportunities for hands-on learning and up-close visits with livestock, there were unique events like the Keystone Classic Barbecue Competition.
“KILE is a great opportunity for those in agriculture to see quality livestock and to network with their colleagues, and it’s also a wonderful way for visitors to experience agriculture up-close and enjoy the fun that comes with it,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
Pennsylvania’s newly crowned dairy princess, Yvonne Longenecker, was on hand to chat with children about food. Longenecker wants to attend Penn State to study food science, “Because,” she said, “I not only love food…There’s so much to learn about food.”
This was her first outing as princess since winning the crown in September. Her alternates were also in attendance. Fun events included Twister floor mats, bean bags throws and ring tosses. If they wanted to get a cursory lesson in plant life, that was available.
Meanwhile, the Stockmen’s Trade Show returned to the Northeast Hall with its latest innovations in animal agriculture and shopping opportunities featuring nearly a dozen vendors. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings demonstrated draft horse hitch events, including the North American All Breeds 6-Horse Hitch Classic Series and the return of the Haflinger Hitch Pony Champion Series classes. Some of the country’s best draft horse and draft pony operations vied for berths at the national finals. On Saturday kids took part in the down-home fun of the Fulton Bank Agri-Kid Olympics in Northeast Hall. KILE crammed in four days’ worth of activities perfect for an early-fall family outing.
KILE is the largest livestock show on the East Coast, with more than 1,300 beef cattle, 300 horses, 1,500 sheep, 300 swine, and 375 goats in 2017. This year, more than 725 exhibitors from 27 states and Canada competed in livestock events. The show also includes the 10th Annual Keystone Classic Barbecue Competition, a Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event to select the state’s finest culinary competitors.