Farm Show Week

My husband and I went to the Pennsylvania Farm Show yesterday. Saw horses put through their paces. Alpacas and their wool being spun. Cows being milked. Large tractors next to displays about bio-fuel being developed at colleges. Amazing varieties of ducks, turkeys and chickens; sadly, one hen had just had a coronary. Sheep wearing covers like ghost costumes, their eyes peering out of two holes; I suppose it was to keep their wool clean for showing. Honey, jellies, sauces and colorful beans in jars. Splurged on a chocolate milkshake from the PA Dairy stand.

And I watched people…some obviously were curious townies like me, come for the food, the animals, the shows. But many, probably a majority, were the farming families of this state, who, with their animals and produce and crafts in tow, came to learn, compete, sell, swap stories, and plan the next season. It was nearing the end of a long week, and many looked tired; yet their pride and dedication to their work was pervasive.

I realized again how versatile farmers must be. They must know about small and large machines (and preferably be able to fix them); the protection and working of soil; the care, feeding, breeding and training of animals; the sciences of biology, botany, chemistry, math, veterinary science and genetics; food production, storage, preservation, and marketing; business management; weather prediction; long hours and few vacations. They also live in an era where family farms are dwindling, corporate farming is growing and the economic stresses are overwhelming. I admire their courage, but I understand it; they are doing what they love for as long as they can. It is their life…

“And the LORD God took the human and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15. Eden or not, tilling and keeping is our way of life.

It reminds me of our churches, particularly our smaller, so-called “mainline” congregations like my own, also beset by economic stresses, cultural pressures, and dwindling attendance. Pastors in these smaller congregations are also generalists: theologians, worship leaders, counselors, volunteer coordinators, evangelists, preachers, writers, visitors, community relaters, administrators, long-range planners, educators, managers, arbitrators, and much more. I have even learned how to make sure water is in the furnace to keep the heat going. And in a previous congregation, I watched the pastor squeeze inside the guts of a tracker organ on a Christmas eve to fix the cipher that was droning away.

In spite of the challenges, people in our congregation and thousands of others are there because it is our way of being faithful followers of Christ. We are called there, like farmers to the land, and it is our spiritual home. For those who lead, both lay people and pastors, during these challenging times, it takes courage, commitment, hope and love to remain and serve in a faith community. But it is our life, isn’t it? Together we have a purpose: to share the good news of Christ like food to a hungry community. We’re not so different from farmers after all, and I think that’s what I most liked about wandering through the farm show.


  1. Would you believe that all these years, I still haven’t made it to the farm show? I would like to, for all the reasons you suggest.

  2. After 28 years in central PA, it was our first time!