2021 Pennsylvania Farm Show will be virtual

An aerial view of the 2018 Farm Show. Officials decided to make the 2021 Farm Show virtual to contain the spread of COVID-19. PHOTO/FILE


Update 3:43 p.m. 8/19/20: This story has been updated to include comments from the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association.

The 2021 PA Farm Show will be held virtually to safeguard against COVID-19, state officials announced Wednesday.

“Rather than an in-person Farm Show, we will celebrate Pennsylvania agriculture virtually for 2021 as we prepare for a productive future,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding told reporters in a Wednesday morning press call.

The virtual event will take place on the originally planned dates, Jan. 9 – 16, Redding said. The “tough decision” to move to a virtual exposition was made to keep the public safe while paying tribute to a crucial Pennsylvania sector, Redding said. Officials are hopeful they can use the social disruption caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to innovate the more than century-old Farm Show into the virtual space.

The theme for the 2021 virtual Farm Show will be “Cultivating Tomorrow,” focusing on agriculture literacy and the interconnectedness of the commonwealth’s food chain, which has been disrupted by the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus, Agriculture Department and Farm Show officials said.

“Through ‘Cultivating Tomorrow,’ we’ll tell this story through technology as we envision and cultivate a prosperous, thriving future together,” said Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex Executive Director Sharon Myers. “We have not lost sight of what this industry means to Pennsylvania, in fact, this pandemic has highlighted our reliance on it. The show will go on, just as agriculture has persevered.”

Redding said the show will highlight the crucial yet precarious role food supply chains play in daily life, and the resilience and innovation of Pennsylvania farmers, which have become “crystal clear” during the pandemic.

“It’s a tough decision and one we did not take lightly, understanding the Farm Show’s important role in our society, our history, it’s unique to Pennsylvania,” he said. “It’s how many of us mark time in our year. But we also recognize this is the right thing to do. So while this field may lie fallow in January, we are cultivating tomorrow.”

The annual Farm Show is recognized as the largest agricultural exposition under one roof in the country, with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits every year. A point of pride for the commonwealth, the Farm Show showcases an industry that employs nearly half a million people and contributes $185 billion to the state’s economy every year, according to the Farm Show’s website.

The Farm Show raises funds each year for philanthropic projects like “Fill a Glass with Hope,” the country’s first statewide charitable milk donation program, and agriculture scholarships for college students pursuing careers in farming.

Agriculture Department officials say it’s unclear how the more than century-old tradition will take place in the virtual sphere, without in-person events and popular food items to draw hundreds of thousands of attendants each year. Details of the virtual show, from holding competitions to showcasing a food sculpture, will be announced as they unfold over the coming weeks, department officials said.

Dave Smith, executive director of the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, said in a statement released later Wednesday that the Palmyra-based trade group is “eager to explore virtual opportunities with agricultural partners,” although he’s disappointed the state needed to make such a difficult decision.

Smith asked Farm Show attendants for “assistance” as the dairy industry explores new ways to offer products and to support farmers.

“Through partnerships with fans and community organizations, we can raise money for our charitable projects by selling our delicious milkshakes at other venues,” Smith said. “And, hopefully soon, we will have more announcements about where you can purchase and sample the delicious dairy products we feature at the PA Farm Show.”

GIANT to invest $114 million in store upgrades, Philly fulfillment center

GIANT Food Stores LLC will invest $114 million over the next year in projects in Pennsylvania, company officials announced during a Thursday morning press conference at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

Giant Food Stores to invest $144 million in Pennsylvania
GIANT Food Stores President Nicholas Bertram stands at the podium with Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding by his side during a press conference at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. (Photo: Michael Yoder)

The investment will be used to create a new GIANT DIRECT ecommerce fulfillment center outside of Philadelphia, open two new stores, including one in Swatara Township, Dauphin County, and remodel 35 existing stores, company President Nicholas Bertram announced at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, accompanied by state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin.

“We’re doubling down on growth and innovation for our customers, building on the incredible momentum of 2019, and continuing to invest in our great Commonwealth,” Bertram said.

Last year saw major changes and growth for the Middlesex Township-based company, including the opening of 17 new stores and the launch of two new brands. Last January, the grocer debuted its new GIANT Heirloom Market format in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood of Philadelphia, followed by locations in University City and the Northern Liberties. In February, the company opened a first-of-its kind GIANT DIRECT ecommerce hub in Lancaster, and then rolled out the GIANT DIRECT concept to 125 locations.

“The accelerated growth of GIANT DIRECT has set the stage for additional investment opportunities that extend our ecommerce geographic reach,” Bertram said. “At the same time, our GIANT Heirloom Market format has enabled us to reach an entirely new demographic in Philadelphia.

Final grant program introduced from Pa. Farm Bill

A $1 million grant program created to enhance the long-term health and vitality of Pennsylvania’s family farms was introduced Wednesday in front of hundreds of public officials at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

The Farm Vitality Grant Program is the last of the grant programs financed under Gov. Tom Wolf’s $23.1 million Pa. Farm Bill, the state’s first.

“Just as farmers are at the heart of Pennsylvania and its heritage, the heart of the Pa. Farm Bill is the Ag Business Development Center and its $1 million Farm Vitality Grant Program,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “We need Pennsylvania farm families to have sound business plans, because their success is Pennsylvania’s success.”

The Farm Vitality Grant Program is designed to help fund professional services for individuals and families planning for the future of their farm. Officials say the program will enhance the long-term health and vitality of farms through business planning, efficient transitions of farm ownership, strategic farm expansion, diversification of agricultural production and financial and technical expertise.

The state Farm Bill also includes programs to tackle other issues in the agricultural community, including the Agriculture Linked Investment Program to provide low-interest loans for conservation practices, the Farm-to-School Grant Program to increase nutrition and agriculture education opportunities in schools, and the Specialty Crop Block Program investing in Pennsylvania crops like hardwoods, hemp and hops.