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Pa. Farm Show: Diversity is on the table, but not sitting around it

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Jan 6, 2018 7:57 AM

(Harrisburg) -- The 2018 showcase of Pennsylvania's agriculture opens Saturday under the banner of "Strength in Our Diversity."

Diversity in Pennsylvania's agriculture is found on the table, but not sitting around it.

Pennsylvania farmers are racially and ethnically as white as milk, the state's most valuable agricultural product. More than 99 percent of principal farm operators in Pennsylvania are white, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Just 563 farm operators are not white.

Pennsylvania farmers "are German, Irish, African American, Amish and English and many others," Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell said, introducing the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show's theme.

The nation's largest agricultural exposition runs this Saturday through next Saturday, Jan. 13, at the farm show complex, 2300 N. Cameron St.

Pennsylvania a century ago had five times the number of African American operators (546 in 1910 compared to 103 in 2012). The state in 1910 also had nearly four times as many farms and 800,000 more acres in farms. The Census back then also counted "foreign-born white operators" of farms - who were predominantly from Germany, Ireland and England.

The average Pennsylvania farmer today is a 56-year-old white male who owns a 131-acre farm. He typically raises cows, cattle, hogs or poultry and grows grains and hay to feed the animals. He's worked the same farm 23 years and has internet service. He's likely to hold down a job off the farm, although farming is his primary occupation. The average farm nets less than $30,000 a year.

 

That said, women have prominent roles in running Pennsylvania's farms. While just 14 percent of farms had a woman in charge in 2012, 43 percent of farms listed at least one woman as major operators.

Pennsylvania's diversity is in what farmers produce.

A stroll around the food court will introduce you to the wide variety of foodstuffs that Pennsylvania farmers are responsible for - milkshakes, mushrooms, maple syrup, vegetable soup, hamburgers, French fries and deep-fried onions.

Pennsylvania is also making its mark in the age-old tradition of fermentation:

  • The state is No. 6 in cider production, and the farm show this year has offered a hard cider competition in seven categories.
  • Pennsylvania ranks 10th in wine production, according to Wines and Vines. Bottled wine is available from local producers at the show.
  • The state's 205 craft breweries made 3.9 million barrels of beer in 2016, making Pennsylvania the top brewer of craft beer, according to the Brewers Association. The Pennsylvania Port Producers Council hosts the Best Rib and Beer Competition at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Culinary Connection Stage.

Nearly two-thirds the nation's mushrooms are grown in Pennsylvania. The state produces twice as much as No. 2 California.

Sales of Pennsylvania's certified organic commodities doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to the  National Agricultural Statistics Service. The state ranks No. 2 behind California.

Pennsylvania is No. 4 in both Christmas trees and greenhouses/nurseries.

In more traditional agriculture Pennsylvania also is a top producer - No. 5 in milk, No. 6 in corn for silage to feed livestock, No. 6 in tobacco, No. 8 in horses, No. 10 in fruits and nuts and No. 10 in poultry and eggs. Overall the state ranks No. 21 with sales of $6.4 billion in 2016.

Ventures in aquaponics and vertical farming in recent years have joined Pennsylvania's centuries-old heritage of dairy farming and hardwoods management.

Pennsylvania has about 59,000 farms covering 7.7 million acres. They support 2,3000 food processing companies.

 

Pennsylvania farms, by the numbers:

A quarter of Pennsylvania's 4,268 migrant workers work on 72 farms in Adams County, the state's top producer of apples and peaches

Lancaster County has the youngest farmers - an average age of 49 years. Allegheny County has the oldest - an average of 60 years.

Lancaster County farmers hire the most labor, followed closely by mushroom capital Chester County. York County is a distant third.

York County, with 2,171 farms, is second to Lancaster County, which has 5,657 farms. Lebanon is sixth (1,665) and Franklin eighth (1,596).

Franklin County, with 393 dairy farms, is second in the state to Lancaster County, which has 1,665 dairy farms. Lebanon is fifth, with 242 dairy farms.

Lebanon County has 112 poultry operations and is second to Lancaster County (414).

York County ranks fifth in greenhouses and nurseries (113). Lancaster has the most (260). 

If you go

What: 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show

When: Jan. 6-13

Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8 through Friday, Jan. 12; and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13

Where: Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, 2300 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg

 

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion

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