by Courtney Llewellyn
“There are times when the risks of a farmer are too great. To protect our assets, both our people and our resources, we’ve made decision to take a year to lie fallow.” That’s how Pennsylvania Ag Secretary Russell Redding announced that the Pennsylvania Farm Show will continue as a virtual event from Jan. 9 – 15, 2021.
Redding said the upcoming virtual show will highlight what has become “crystal clear” during the pandemic – the interconnectedness of farms, retail and distribution. Specific details are to be announced as the coming months unfold.
“In the previous 104 years, the show has never been cancelled. We want to make sure it’s not cancelled in its 105th year,” Redding added. “We want to make sure we continue to tell the story of the tradition and the people and … it will be made most impactful by the farmers and the families and the people making the sacrifices. It’s history making in so many ways.”
During the announcement of the show on Aug. 19, the Ag Secretary emphasized the show will continue to focus on “people, products and process.” His department’s priority is keeping the public safe, keeping people fed and agriculture working. The virtual farm show will honor the industry while fulfilling these priorities.
“It was a tough decision and one we did not take lightly,” he reiterated. “While this field may lie fallow in January, we’re cultivating for tomorrow.”
As planning continues, organizers will be considering how to host virtual youth competitions and more interactive exhibits on the web, as well as how to best reach all parts of the commonwealth.
A virtual event “takes the Farm Show out to all parts of Pennsylvania. It will brings us to different farms, show us different agricultural systems,” Redding said. But to do that effectively, good internet access will be critical.
Broadband access is one of the topics the Ag Department will keep talking about, according to Redding. They’ll be working with the governor’s office and the legislature to push it forward. “We’ll look for creative ways to push out what we’re doing,” he said. “We’ll look to close some of our [poor internet access] pockets here in the state.”
Dave Smith, executive director of the PA Dairymen’s Association, who also participated in the announcement, noted, “There will be tremendous disappointment from the farm community [that an in-person show isn’t happening], but our farm community is incredibly resilient. We’ll make some changes. And a virtual farm show is an opportunity for us to do things a little different.”
The lack of an in-person show will result in a major economic impact, however. According to Redding, studies in 2015 and 2016 found the PA Farm Show has a $60 million impact. That economic impact underscored how difficult this decision was, he said – “but our eye is on the future.”
Check farmshow.pa.gov and the PA Farm Show Facebook page for updates on the virtual show as they occur.