FarmShowSun004.jpg

2-year-old twins Aidan & Collin Chisca, of Macungie look at the lamb at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg on Sunday, January 5, 2020.

THE ISSUE

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is a tradition that dates back more than a century. This year’s event continues through Saturday. Touted as the nation’s largest indoor agricultural exposition under one roof, it showcases about 6,000 animals and 10,000 exhibits. “The show offers visitors a tiny slice of the industry that employs nearly half a million people and contributes $185 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy every year,” according to its website.

Here’s our pitch: There’s still time to get to the 2020 Farm Show, which is held at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg.

Go today, and you can check out a junior dairy goat show, tractor square dancing, an Army vs. Navy cook-off, and a sheep show, among other events. [See full time schedule]

Go Friday, and there are maple syrup demonstrations, the supreme champion dairy cow competition, a celebrity cow-milking contest, an equine showcase, an evening rodeo and more.

And if you can’t make it until Saturday, you’ll still catch a full day of events. See the goat and sheep shows, an antique tractor restoration presentation, a lumberjack demonstration, a milkshake contest and more — including another rodeo to end the festivities.

Plus, each day, there are all of the farm animals to see (including the adorable alpacas, in addition to the “Old MacDonald” regulars). And there’s the fabulous food. Sausage sandwiches. Grilled cheese sticks. Chicken meatballs. Pulled pork sandwiches. Honey waffles. Plus pies, cinnamon buns and cakes.

And those famous milkshakes!

We’re big fans of the Farm Show, if you haven’t already noticed.

We’ve enjoyed reading and watching the coverage from LNP | LancasterOnline staffers as they’ve checked out the show.

Gillian McGoldrick wrote about the animals coming into the world at the Calving Corner, the prize-winning gourds and the ever-popular baby duck slide. Danielle Zulkosky was there for the unveiling of the butter sculpture, a tribute to sports mascots that includes the Philadelphia Flyers’ Gritty. And, for those 21 and older, Erin Negley scoped out the award-winning cider, beer and wine.

But while the food and fun are abundant, they’re not the only point of the Farm Show.

It’s an annual showcase of an essential aspect of Pennsylvania’s heritage and economy: agriculture. In 2020, it’s more important than ever to highlight and support that industry. Many farmers are struggling these days to adjust to changing trends within the agricultural commodities market.

The Farm Show reminds us of the hard work it takes to be a farmer, where our food comes from and how we should never take for granted our full refrigerators and pantries.

“The general consumer is further removed from the farm today than they ever were,” Andy Bollinger, whose family owns the Lititz-based Meadow Spring Farm, told McGoldrick. “My parents’ generation would’ve all had a grandparent that would’ve grown up on the farm. I feel like as farmers we need to do a better job of connecting to consumers — just to build that trust factor.”

Bollinger detailed days that start at 4:30 a.m. with the cows and can sometimes run until 10 p.m.

Indeed, it is farmers like the Bollingers, and so many others across Lancaster County and Pennsylvania, who make those milkshakes — and so many other foods we enjoy — possible.

We encourage everyone to get to Harrisburg before the Farm Show ends. Admission is free. Parking in all Farm Show Complex-operated lots is $15 per vehicle. Free shuttle buses run regularly throughout the show from remote lots to the complex.

And, if you go today, LNP’s Mary Ellen Wright notes that veterans and active-duty military members with a valid ID can get a free milkshake from the PA Dairymen’s Association. There will be other discounts and specials from vendors, too.

Devastation in Puerto Rico

It’s been a frightening start to 2020 for Puerto Rico, which has experienced a series of earthquakes that began Dec. 28. Tuesday morning’s quake was the strongest in a century.

“The magnitude 6.4 quake that struck before dawn Tuesday killed one person, injured nine others and knocked out power across the U.S. territory,” The Associated Press reported. “More than 250,000 Puerto Ricans remained without water Wednesday and another half a million without power, which also affected telecommunications.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez has activated the National Guard, and President Donald Trump has approved federal emergency funding for the island.

Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from the Category 4 Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in September 2017, killing about 3,000 people and causing an estimated $90 billion in damage. These earthquakes are another terrible blow and represent a new humanitarian crisis in some regions.

This isn’t just a long-distance concern. Lancaster County has deep ties to Puerto Rico. LNP’s Jeff Hawkes spoke with Christiana Maldonado, a Lancaster resident visiting family on Puerto Rico’s western coast.

“The house was rocking back and forth,” Maldonado said of Tuesday morning’s earthquake. “I grabbed my best friend’s hand, and we just waited. ... It was about eight seconds long, but it felt like five minutes.”

We can only imagine the terror that she and so many others felt — and are still feeling.

A spokesperson for Manheim Township-based Mennonite Disaster Service told Hawkes that its volunteers and project leaders in Puerto Rico were safe, which is a relief.

The organization plans to send a team to the island next week to assess how it can help with the recovery from this latest natural disaster.

We can help, too. Mennonite Disaster Service is accepting donations for the effort at mds.mennonite.net/donate