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FarmFest Returns for 7th Year with New Features

by on July 26, 2018 7:00 AM

Now in its seventh year, PA Organic FarmFest, presented by Pennsylvania Certified Organic, welcomes crowds from all over the region to play, learn and get involved with agriculture and local farmers. Last year, the event drew nearly 5,000 people, a result which PCO executive director Leslie Zuck says “met and exceeded all [PCO’s] expectations.”

The free, family-friendly event -- which will be held 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday at Grange Park in Centre Hall -- has become a Centre County summer staple offering educational activities for homeowners and backyard gardeners (like workshops on pollinators and edible perennials), blacksmithing demos, live music, wagon rides, roller derby, book signings, camping demos, a petting zoo of rescued farm animals, a parade and more.

New this year are appearances by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, with wild mustangs to see and pet, and local “Creature Teacher” Jody Wallace with her falcons.


Attendees at FarmFest can be a part of the parade starting at 4:15 p.m. Photo provided

However, this year’s FarmFest offers a separate element that goes above and beyond the fun, fair-like atmosphere.

“This year has been particularly tough on farmers, with the dairy price dip and labor shortages and now flooding,” Zuck says. “It’s challenging in a good year and it’s particularly tough on farmers when things aren’t going well. [One] thing that’s challenging for farmers, and rural community members in general, is to feel like their concerns are being listened to,.

“FarmFest has decided to address that problem [through the Pennsylvania Food & Farm Policy Forum].”

The forum is an all-day event held simultaneously with FarmFest and focuses on issues that affect both farmers and the rural communities that depend on those farmers.

“Everyone is welcome to join in on the conversation — people from all interest groups, different political leanings, different types of agriculture. We want to talk about solutions for moving forward. Pennsylvania is a great farming state and we’re now No. 2 in organic farming and organic sales, but even so, farmers are farmers. It doesn’t matter what kind of farming you do, it’s a challenging job and really hard work,” Zuck says.

The forum brings together featured speakers and panelists, both regional and national names, including National Farmers Union senior policy advisor Rob Larew, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture  Russell Redding; Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture executive director Hannah Smith-Brubaker, U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, and Kristina Watson, director of federal government affairs for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

Held in the Grassroots Hall, the forum also provides an exhibit space for organizations working on environmental, conservation, rural and agricultural issues. PCO welcomes any organization that would like to be represented in the Grassroots Hall as an exhibitor, even up until the morning of the event.

“Any organizations who would like to be represented in the Grassroots Hall can come and we’ll accommodate them,” notes Zuck. “The more, the merrier. If there are organizations who want to be included, connect with us.”


Ashburn's Animals on a Mission petting zoo will be on hand all day in the Family Arena at FarmFest. Photo provided

Prior to the forum is an additional educational event from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, hosted in partnership with the Centre County Farm Bureau. During Meet the Candidates Night, “nine candidates are going to come and speak about farm and rural issues with our local constituents…,” explains Zuck. “We wanted to bring all these candidates together in one place to answer questions and meet with their voters.”

On Saturday, plans are in place in the event of inclement weather and all activities can be moved indoors. Children are encouraged to bring their bikes to enjoy the expansive, safe grounds. Pets are welcome.

FarmFest does strive to be a zero-waste event and disposable drink containers, plates and other materials are limited. Water is provided and attendees are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles.

Businesses or organizations that wish to participate as a vendor, exhibitor or sponsor may still sign up online through the rest of today, Thursday, July 26, or by calling 814-422-3001.

 

For more information, visit farmfest.paorganic.org

Trickling Springs Creamery will be among the vendors in the Organic Food Court. Photo by Waterhouse Studios/provided


Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding will be among the speakers at the Pennsylvania Food & Farm Policy Forum. Photo provided.



Holly Riddle is a freelance food, lifestyle and entertainment writer. She can be reached at holly.ridd@gmail.com.
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