Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding on Wednesday previewed some of the events that will be featured at the virtual 2021 Farm Show, scheduled for Jan. 9-16.

He announced in August that there would be no in-person events for the Farm Show to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. No livestock shows will be held at the Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg, although discussions are ongoing about ways to engage the state's 4-H youth.

"I have a mixed reaction," Michele Brown of Cold Creek Farms, beef producers in Kempton, said Wednesday. 

"I think it's important to seize any opportunity to connect non-agriculture people with producers," said Brown, the mother of seven children ages 7-21.
 
The annual Farm Show did that perfectly.
 
For more than 10 years, the Browns have been going to the Farm Show, where they exhibit cattle and welcome inquisitive visitors eager to pet the family's cows
 
She understands the reasons for canceling in-person events, but still feels disappointment for missed opportunities for socializing with other farm families and fundraising for commodity groups, breed associations, 4-H and more.
 
"I always say Farm Show is a sensory overload, with the sights and smells," Brown said. "A virtual show is one-dimensional; you can't smell the potato doughnuts."
 
Redding said in a statement, “While a virtual show will be very different from what we all know and love about the Pennsylvania Farm Show, we’ve been given an opportunity to think outside the box.” 
 
Carol Reed, who runs Over Home Alpacas in Bethel, has brought alpacas to the Farm Show for about seven years.
 
"I'm disappointed, but on the other hand, I understand," she said.
 
It's the perfect showcase for her unique animals.
 
"A lot of people don't understand alpacas are livestock and raised for their fiber," said Reed, who is considering opening her farm to the public during the week of Farm Show so people can meet the alpacas and shop for fiber products. 
 
Learning is a big part of the Farm Show, Berks producers said.
 
"Our kids attend Farm Show to visit with other farm kids, to learn and to step outside the county," said Brown.
 
"We're optimistic that a virtual show will pique the interest of people who've never wanted to fight the crowds, deal with the cold weather or the shuttle from the parking lot," Brown. "But it has a lot of moving parts, and we'll have to see how it plays out."
 
According to a press release, the virtual Farm Show will include live and prerecorded events, as well as an online resource library, starting Saturday, Jan. 9. The show will include, but not be limited to, the following:

• A traditional 1,000-pound butter sculpture.

• Live duckling and beehive cams available 24/7.

• PA Preferred Culinary Connection cooking and beverage-pairing demonstrations (with ingredients provided in advance so Pennsylvanians can cook along with chefs).

• Daily, live-action demonstrations, from Angora-Palooza to tractor pulls, for family fun entertainment.

There will also be traditional non-animal competitive events with commodities such as Christmas trees and wine. Once new rules for COVID-19 safe competitive events are finalized, a full list of competitive opportunities will be announced, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Follow the Farm Show on Facebook and Instagram, and visit the show’s website, farmshow.pa.gov, for updated information. Full-length live events will be streamed both on the Pennsylvania Farm Show’s Facebook page and the Pennsylvania Cable Network throughout the week of the show.

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