It’s nearly time for the 2023 PA Farm Show! From Saturday, January 7, through Saturday, January 14, 2023, this iconic annual agricultural celebration is back for its 107th iteration. The theme of this year’s Farm Show is “Rooted in Progress,” an optimistic sentiment that nods to history and tradition while looking ahead to what abundance that the future holds.
Did you know that this beloved Pennsylvania institution is the largest indoor agricultural event in the country, with approximately 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and 300 commercial exhibitors under one roof? It’s a great time with lots of things to experience and lots of amazing food, but there is a deeper level to it, too. Agriculture is a $185-billion industry in Pennsylvania, and behind that impressive number are people and families. The PA Farm Show provides us a chance to meet and applaud the farmers and producers from across our state who do the difficult and truly essential labor of growing and raising the food that we eat all year long.
Before you start putting your itinerary together, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- During the Farm Show, the Complex is open from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. However, on Sunday, January 8, it closes at 8 p.m., and on Saturday, January 14 (the last day), it closes at 5 p.m.
- The quietest times at the Farm Show are between 9 a.m. and noon, and the busiest times are weekends and weekdays between 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
- On Friday, January 6, there is a Farm Show preview from noon until 9 p.m., when the Food Court will be open.
- Attendance at the PA Farm Show is free, but parking costs $15 per car, which includes a shuttle from the lot to the Farm Show Complex.
- A lot of the action takes place in the Main Hall of the Complex, near the Maclay St. entrance. This is where you’ll find the famous Butter Sculpture, local vendors and competitive exhibits.
- The Giant Exhibition Hall is where the Food Court is located (note that the Food Court is credit-card-only this year), and the halls and arenas in the Complex are where the live animal competitions, interactive exhibits and auctions take place.
- Find the full schedule of events here, the Farm Show Visitor’s Guide here and the map for the Farm Show Complex here.
- Watch televised coverage of the 2023 PA Farm Show, through the Pennsylvania Cable Network, either streaming online or through cable television.
It’s no surprise than an event that celebrates local agriculture also has incredible food! The Farm Show Food Court, located in the Expo Hall and the Main Hall, is something many Pennsylvanians (and visitors) look forward to year after year. Highlights often include the milkshakes from the PA Dairymen’s Association, potato donuts from the PA Cooperative Potato Growers, Inc., maple cotton candy from the PA Maple Syrup Producers Council, the Sausage of the Day from the PA Livestock Association, and the blooming onions from the PA Vegetable Growers Association.
New to the Food Court this year is an amazing-sounding creation from the Mushroom Farmers of PA: the Blended Mushroom Steakhouse Burger, a juicy patty that’s a blend of 60% grass-fed beef with 40% fresh Pennsylvania Mushrooms, served on a Martin’s Potato Roll and topped with cheese, sauteed mushrooms and a tangy Alabama-style barbecue sauce. Also, don’t miss the Portabella Jerky, handcrafted mushroom jerky, a savory plant-based treat. Other favorite meat-free dishes in the Food Court are the potato pierogi at the PA Cooperative Potato Grower’s booth, the PA Vegetable Grower’s Association’s veggie burgers and veggie corn dogs and the Pennsylvania FFA Foundation’s Veggie Lover’s Pizza.
There are also hundreds of packaged food products to explore from vendors in the Farmers Market in the Main Hall. Shop your heart out for fresh local products to take home, like cheese, honey, maple syrup, vegetables and more!
If you’re sitting out the in-person Farm Show, that doesn’t mean you have to forego all of these delicious foods! Pick up some local ice cream and make your own Dairymen’s-inspired milkshakes at home. For recipes on how to make the mushroom salad and mushroom blend burger (two favorites at the Food Court), check out these amazing copycat recipes from Penn Live! The article also shares recipes for fried mozzarella cheese cubes, apple dumplings and more.
In 2021, when the PA Farm Show was fully virtual, it released a series of delicious recipe videos along with local beverage pairings ideas. Pick one or two to make for dinner throughout the week of the Farm Show:
- Lamb Sliders with PA Porter
- Chicken Meatballs with Apple Butter and Wood-Aged Cider
- Lebanon Bologna Wedge Salad Bites with Modern PA Cider
- Sweet Potato Salad and Kombucha
- Butternut Squash Dip with Chardonnay
- and for dessert: Honey Oat Meringues with Locally Roasted Coffee
The PA Preferred Culinary Connection stage is also a big draw for food lovers at the PA Farm Show. Every day (and nearly every hour), you can watch local chefs cook and discuss dishes, like sweet potato donuts with browned butter custard and Pennsylvania mushroom ragout with parsnip gnocchi.
Another fun way to continue the Farm Show spirit is to check out the PA Farm Show Trail. This searchable, interactive map let’s you locate many of the commercial and PA Preferred vendors of the PA Farm Show. So, if you’re making a Farm Show-inspired recipe or just want to shop hyper-local, find PA Farm Show vendors that you can support in or near your community.
Get the kids involved by checking out the 23 Farm Show AgExplorer stations, which are designed with the entire family in mind. Sponsored by DFA, Friends of the Farm Show Foundation, Inc. and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, this interactive program is meant to educated and inspire visitors young and old about Pennsylvania agriculture. Pick up a map when you arrive at the Farm Show, and then make sure to stop by each AgExplorer station, including goats, sheep, mushrooms, 4-H, dairy and more! Kids can also head here to participate in the AgExplorer adventure from home.
Other activities that the kids will love include: meeting bunnies in the rabbit hutch; tractor and pony rides; the butterfly pavilion; the Frontier Finals Rodeo; and seeing the impressive farm dogs at the Canine Spectacular. This year, they can also visit Destination Dairy in Northeast Exhibit Hall (home of the Calving Corner birthing center) which features “Moo U,” an interactive STEM learning area with hands-on activities meant to introduce the whole family to the science and technology behind modern dairy farming. Finally, don’t miss the new llamas and alpacas at the Farm Show! There will be a llama and alpaca costume contest in the Equine Arena at 8 a.m.on Tuesday.
Encourage older kids and teens who are interested in careers in agriculture to set aside some time to dig into the opportunities for career exploration at the Farm Show. In person, they may want to hang out for awhile in the “So You Wanna’ Be a Farmer” exhibition in the Main Hall. Here, aspiring gardeners can learn about how to grow food at home or start a farm. This year, the exhibit also features a section called “Reinventing the Corner Store” with Philly’s FarmerJawn CSA. which examines reclaiming and re-greening city spaces to feed and unite neighborhoods. Virtual attendees can explore the helpful online career resources provided by the PA Farm Show.
For more information about the 2022 PA Farm Show, be sure to visit its website and Facebook page. What are you looking forward to this year?
- Photos: PA Farm Show