Now in its third year, Pennsylvania Organic FarmFest organizers are adding a new tactile learning opportunity to the event’s schedule, which is already packed with up-close and authentic experiences for families interested in our region’s organic offerings.
New this year is a “Wool Village,” with sheep shearing and spinning demonstrations and a spotlight on fiber vendors and arts.
Organizers wanted to expand hands-on opportunities, said Lee Rinehart, education and outreach director at Pennsylvania Certified Organic, the Spring Mills nonprofit that pulls the event together.
“It’s sheep shearing all the way to shawl,” Rinehart said. “We wanted to have lots of animals there; people love them. And we want to have engaging demonstrations. These are the types of things that really draw people.”
Though interaction is built into the event’s activities on Aug. 1 and 2, the Wool Village offers a different take on local farming, Rinehart said.
“We have a lot of sit down learning opportunities, and even with those we make sure there are engaging and encourage responses,” he said. “We wanted to have more opportunities where people can learn something new.”
The free community event at the Centre County Grange fairgrounds centers around organic farming — but nonfarmers have much to gain, Rinehart said.
“It is particularly geared toward nonfarmers as well,” he said.
“We set this up to be an event that celebrates organic agriculture in our area, to celebrate organic farmers and food. This is an outreach to spread the word. People can go away saying, ‘This is something I can continue with all year. This is something cool in the valley.’ ”
The goal compliments the organization’s mission, said Leslie Zuck, executive director.
“Pennsylvania Organic FarmFest celebrates our state’s rich organic heritage, which began more than 75 years ago, when J.I. Rodale first used the term ‘organic’ to describe natural alternatives to chemical farming,” she said.
“Pennsylvania now ranks in the top 10 in organic production, thanks to generations of family farmers dedicated to producing healthy, delicious food for their families and communities.”
Last year, more than 2,300 visitors participated in FarmFest, and this year’s workshops and events bring back those that draw the biggest crowds and provide helpful information, through farming demonstrations and homesteading and farming workshops.
Mary-Howell and Klaas Martens, certified organic grain farmers and owners of Lakeview Organic Grain in Penn Yan, N.Y., will give a keynote presentation with insights on production practices and the health benefits of heirloom and artisan grains on Aug. 1.
The Wool Village and blacksmith horseshoeing demonstrations continue on both days, as well as the Homemade & Homegrown Market, which features with farm and craft vendors.
A Book Nook offers a quiet space to relax, drink organic coffee, browse books or mingle with authors.
Live bands will perform on three stages, including a barn dance Friday night, and families can enjoy meals from the Organic Food Court or the free Sampling Barn.
The kids haven’t been forgotten either, Rinehart said, and dogs are welcome.
“Families should expect a fun, free, outdoor event,” he said.
“There are children’s activities, games and a music stage for the kids. Wegmans Kids’ Fun & Learning Stations and Organic Valley will have tables and activities, and animals, too.”