Pennsylvania Farm Show 2019 report
Last month, Get to Know Your Farmer visited the Pennsylvania farm show in Harrisburg.
Every year, this event brings throngs of people to the state complex down on Cameron Street. Families from all over Central Pennsylvania like to come and sample all of the sights, sounds and tastes of the farm show – and yes, even the smells!
What’s important to understand is that not all of these farm show booths and exhibits really show off good farming practices and natural farming ideals.
We started out at the Rodale Institute, where a bright young volunteer filled us in on how the group works to promote natural farming and develop public awareness of things like genetically modified crops and factory farmed livestock.
We also spoke to the folks that have set up the Star Barn out in Elizabethtown – they had a massive steam engine sitting in the exhibition hall, all decked out in its winter finery, and information about upcoming events.
Later we visited Cloaked in Freedom, where Weston Bly shows off American flag blankets inspired by his U.S. Navy service in Iraq, and his grandmother’s love of sewing, as well as her experience as an Army nurse in WWII. Take a look at Bly’s business page to see more about this family legacy!
Along the way, we ran into many furloughed federal workers who were asking whether or not they were going to be paid. Others, including essential staff, were still on the job throughout the government shutdown, and talked about their work.
Two USDA inspectors spoke to us about responsible poultry practices.
It’s not enough, one said, to just shop for ‘cage free’ labels. You don’t know that the chickens are getting actual fresh air or going outside. They could be standing shoulder to shoulder in a filthy poultry barn.
Instead, she said, it’s up to each individual grower to comply with best practices and promote humane chicken farming.
As we pointed out, though, the consumer isn’t at the farms, and actually would probably get jailed for visiting most of the farms. So we’re really kind of out of luck when it comes to holding every grower to a standard. What we can do is commit to purchasing free range and cage free products to put pressure on growers in general to eliminate many of the worst factory farming setups. We can also put our money toward growers who are transparent about what they’re doing! For months now, GTKYF has been working with Amish farms in central PA to bring good poultry products to market – to promote a healthy form of chicken farming, right from the barn out! If you want to get involved and see first-hand how that works, let us know!
After that, we made our way out to the actual show rooms. We spoke to farmers who were scared about the trade war with China. We spoke to farmers who were exhausted and burned out from trying to find markets for their milk. We saw farmers who were ready to throw in the towel, and others who are committed to staying the course.
It’s really an eye-opener to go and talk to the American families and individuals who farm our lands and bring us our food. These are some of the most resourceful, and yes, humorous people you’ll ever want to meet. We even saw a goat eating Chipotle!
Here’s the thing, though – if you want to see all of this stuff next year, and the year after that – if you want the family farmer to thrive – you have to oppose the current system that’s running most of these farmers out of business. Big ag is nipping at the family farmer every step of the way – price margins are deteriorating, markets are disappearing, and agriculture is being consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. It’s not an expanding and contracting system – a natural system where trends compete. It’s a single trend leading to total domination by big agriculture and a loss of the vibrant family farming system we have known ever since the frontier days! That’s not alarmist. Look deeply at the state of farming around the state – and around the country. The natural small, local farming community will not continue to “just exist” under these pressures, without help!
Get involved with Get To Know Your Farmer and help the family farmer to survive. There’s lots in it for you, too.