Farm Show visitors to learn gardening from the 'masters'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- If you enjoy gardening and then preserving the fruits of your labor for consumption year-round, you may want to visit the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences exhibit at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, Jan. 10-17 in Harrisburg.

The college will offer a series of daily presentations, many featuring the expertise of Penn State Master Gardeners, who will offer tips and advice for maximizing the productivity of vegetable and flower gardens. Master Gardeners receive horticultural training through Penn State Extension, and then share their knowledge with the public via workshops, speaking engagements, media outreaches and other community activities.

In addition, Penn State Extension food-safety educators will cover the basics of home food preservation, according to Jonathan Ziegler, marketing specialist and coordinator of the college's Farm Show exhibit.

"You can get information about how to grow and harvest food from your garden, then how to preserve it safely so you can enjoy it long after the growing season is over," he said.

"We'll also offer visitors important information on water-quality issues affecting farms and rural homeowners. In addition, staff from Penn State's Pasto Agricultural Museum will demonstrate antique farm and home implements that highlight historical aspects of farming and rural life and how they set the stage for modern technology."

A popular presentation returning this year will focus on the 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Project, which engages 4-H members in raising and socializing puppies before the canines receive specialized training as service dogs. 4-H youth and volunteer leaders will describe the project, and visitors will be able to interact with the puppies.

The College of Agricultural Sciences' Farm Show exhibit also will engage prospective students of all ages, providing them with information on the many educational and career opportunities available in agriculture and related fields. High school students can learn more about the college's diverse majors, scholarships and student life, and younger students will get to explore agriculture through hands-on activities taking place in the college's Farm Show Detectives Learning Station. 

Tracy Hoover, associate dean for undergraduate education, noted that the college joined the Farm Show Detectives program this year so that younger visitors to the exhibit would have a chance to participate in fun activities that provide an important lesson about the role of agriculture in their lives -- and the potential opportunities the industry may hold for them in the future.

"The Farm Show is a great place to help younger visitors not only better understand and appreciate agriculture, but also think about the potential that agriculture holds for their education and careers," Hoover said. "We are excited to host a learning station where we can help students connect with agriculture and think about how the fun activity they completed could be a topic that they study in college one day."

In addition, the college's undergraduate education team will welcome Pennsylvania FFA and 4-H members to visit, highlighting the connection between Penn State and these two agricultural youth organizations.

Elsewhere at Farm Show, specialists from the college will conduct the Pennsylvania Farm Safety and Health Quiz Bowl. Four FFA and four 4-H teams will compete in a quiz show format to demonstrate their knowledge of farm safety and health hazards and recommended practices.

To be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14, at the Weis Exposition Hall stage, the quiz bowl helps young people learn about hazards and safety on farms in a fun way, according to Dennis Murphy, Nationwide Insurance Professor of Agricultural Safety and Health.

"The kids can enjoy friendly competition while learning information that they can use for the rest of their lives," Murphy said. "Teens answer questions covering many farm-safety issues, such as safety with tractors, mowers and other farm machinery, child safety, first aid, animal care and disease control."

In Exhibit Room B off the Maclay Street lobby, Pennsylvania 4-H -- which is administered by Penn State Extension -- will focus on the science of water, including the links between water and nutrition.

"Our exhibit -- with the theme 'How Much Water Do You Eat?' -- will feature a hands-on activity that will help youth understand that there is water in all of the food we consume," said Deb Dietrich, 4-H extension educator based in Berks County. "We hope they come away appreciating the value of water, not only as a drink but as a component of food, and how important staying hydrated is to healthy living."

Pennsylvania 4-H and the Farm Show also will sponsor an Ag Olympics from 4 to 9 p.m. on the opening Saturday in the Equine Arena.

"This fun, family event will feature individuals and teams weaving through a course of stick horses, pedal tractors and hay bale tossing as they compete for fitness and agility bragging rights and a grand prize of Pennsylvania food products," said Mya Rushton, Penn State Extension 4-H teen program manager. "A 'professional' competition, complete with celebrity coaches, will showcase teams from the Department of Agriculture, Delaware Valley College and Penn State."

Throughout the complex, many other Farm Show events and activities depend on behind-the-scenes contributions from College of Agricultural Sciences personnel. Each year, as many as 150 faculty, county-based extension educators and staff from the college chair and participate on Farm Show committees, staff displays, and coordinate competitive exhibits and shows ranging from dairy cattle and poultry to maple products and mushrooms.

The college's role at the Farm Show is part of Penn State's land-grant partnership with the state.

Sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture, the Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in America, with 24 acres under roof, spread throughout 11 buildings including three arenas. Farm Show officials expect nearly 600,000 spectators, some 6,000 animals, more than 13,000 competitive exhibits and about 300 commercial exhibitors at the eight-day event. 

More than $500,000 in premiums will be offered to competitive exhibitors.

The show is held at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, at the corner of Cameron and Maclay streets in Harrisburg, off Exit 67 of Interstate 81. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 10-16 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 17. Admission is free, and parking is $10. For more information, visit the Farm Show website.

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Last Updated December 22, 2014