There have been many disappointments this year as beloved events and activities have fallen victim to the more important mission of protecting health and safety by mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, but the decision to cancel the Pennsylvania Farm Show as an in-person gathering in January is an especially tough one.

Plans are now underway for a virtual version of one of the largest indoor agricultural shows in the nation, one that attracts more than 500,000 people each year to the farm show complex in Harrisburg. “It was a tough decision, one we didn’t take lightly, said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “It’s how many of us mark time during the year,” he noted, before adding, “It’s the right decision.”

Protecting the health and safety of all residents in the midst of an ongoing pandemic is clearly the correct decision, but we all feel profound disappointment for the hard-working members of the agricultural community, especially young people who have invested time and money in preparing their animals, projects and exhibits for the Farm Show.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show has never been canceled in its 105-year history, and Redding maintains “we’re not canceling this one.”

A virtual, online version will be held during the same scheduled dates, Jan. 9 through 15, he said.

Details are not yet available, but the plan is to create opportunities for organizers to involve video participation from farmers and agri-businesses across the state. “I don’t want to sacrifice the story of agriculture,” Redding said. The theme for the 2021 virtual Farm Show will be “Cultivating Tomorrow.” Virtual events will be focused on education and awareness for both the general public and the agricultural industry.

There are valid concerns that many people who live in rural portions of the state do not have access to broadband, high-speed internet services. Efforts are ongoing here in the Central Susquehanna Valley, as well as across the state and nation to eliminate this “digital divide” between those who have access to lightning fast internet service, and those who can barely get a website to appear on their computer screen.

With this in mind, we hope that Farm Show officials can work with local over-the-air television and radio broadcasters to help get Farm Show programming and content out to those who are underserved by internet services. We here at The Daily Item stand ready to do anything we can to help, using our print and digital platforms. None of this can compare to people meeting face-to-face, but remember, we are talking about the agricultural community here. They will find a way to generate the best results possible from this difficult situation.

“We have not lost sight of what this industry means to Pennsylvania,” said Sharon Myers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Farm Show. “In fact, this pandemic has highlighted our reliance on it. The show will go on,” she said, “just as agriculture has persevered.”

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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