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Each year my wife’s family looks forward to attending the PA Farm Show to enjoy the comradeship of other farmers who likewise participate in an agrarian folk culture raising superior animals and growing crops, which are a credit to their family’s expertise as American farmers. The ultimate goal of feeding the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not to mention our exports which feed a starving world population!
But aside from humanitarian reasons, the annual Farm Show at Harrisburghas continued to keep alive Pennsylvania folklife ways that were once the crowning achievements of our state’s deep seated farming practices that provided a way of life that countless citizens contributed to a prosperous rural America.
Unfortunately, the Kutztown Folk Festival no longer demonstrates with draft horses and six horse bell teams to pull their Conestoga wagon around the Fairgrounds, I was especially proud of area farmers who demonstrated draft horse teams in competition with each other for prize money to the farm show audience to appreciate old time practices that were once commonplace. I recalled the “Grain Rush Days” in Pennsylvania when wagons and horse teams by the hundreds once lined our highways, racing to mills and the port of Philadelphia to take advantage of early grain harvest prices!
Yes, draft horses were an integral part of farming in Pennsylvania, so taking in by the good televised coverage of the PA Farm Show this year which televised a number of huge local draft horse teams pulling various large wagons with elaborate harnesses. Americans realize that the state of Pennsylvania still continues farming practices what are only dreamed of in the Third World countries, besides our talented horse and buggy Dutch families whose humility for man and beast continues to include the Lord’s animal kingdom in their religious folklife i.e. Old Order Amish and Mennonite sects.
The term “teamster” is today lost among other technological Internet scientific terms, which have replaced the more humane words that referred to the humanizing bond between a man and his well trained horses. But the Farm Show has displayed man’s humane bond with the animal kingdom, as the public realizes the love for our animals as seen by Pennsylvania farmers at the annual Farm Show.
One of the largest farm populations in the United States, Pennsylvania’s PA German ethnic citizens remain a key factor in modern farming, since colonial times; a way of life celebrated by very wholesome people!
Richard H. Shaner is director of the American Folklife Institute in Kutztown.