A celebration of the end of farming season with physical competition and chili cook-off
They grow the food we consume, they cultivate the land, and take care of livestock; they work hard year-round. But farmers want to have fun, too.
Despite last Sunday's breezy and cool conditions, farmers from Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania rolled up their sleeves to face each other in the ultimate challenge, "The World's Greatest Farmer Showdown." The 4th annual event was held on the 120-acre Longview Center for Agriculture in Collegeville.
The 13 farmers were divided into four teams and competed in contests like pumpkin shot put, a wheelbarrow obstacle course and even flexing a muscle by pulling a tractor 40 yards in a shortest time. Visitors from the surrounding area cheered the contestants on from the sidelines. The event normally draws between 600-1,000 locals.
"I think the cold weather definitely hurt us a little bit this year but not in the spirit of the farmers, because they're having a great time, and that's really what this event is about," said Laura Vernola, director of ommunications and community engagement at Greener Partners, a non-profit farming educational program. The Longview Center is a project of Greener Partners.
According to Vernola's estimate, 300 people came to this year's event.
The chemistry among the contestants was on full display as shouts of encouragement were directed not only at their own teammates but at members of other teams as well. The participants are all from regional farms and are connected through Tri-State CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training), another project of Greener Partners. CRAFT is a community of experienced farmers who train and equip the next generation of farmers and their mentors through workshops, apprentice programs and various partnerships with educational institutions and other non-profit organizations. Vernola said all of the proceeds made from the event would go toward CRAFT's funding.
The team from Snipes Farm, Morrisville, took home the winning trophy, including $100 gift certificates to the Kimberton Whole Foods, the main sponsor of the event.
Throughout the day, the showdown not only offered activities for farmers but young visitors as well. Children were encouraged to create race cars out of sweet potatoes then race them down the "Spud Derby" track to see whose car went the farthest. Other activities like cornhusk doll-making, face painting and pumpkin carving were available. Some visitors took part in an amateur chili cook-off inside the market building while others huddled around the fire pit and sipped beer offered by the Downingtown-based Victory Brewing Company. Live music was provided by the "Whiskeyhickon Boys," a local, award-winning trio known for its funky folk tunes.
Francis Rizzo, of Oreland, has been coming to the event since it start four years ago. On this day he brought five children; three are his. He said he would like for his children to look at farmers with appreciation.
"Just for kids to be outside is good but then for them to learn something while outside is even more great," Rizzo said. He was speaking as one of sons was making sweet potato dip on a "blender bike" by peddling the stationary bike with a juice mixer attached to it.
"I think it's important for our community to give back to the farming community for how hard they work, " said John Rorrei of Souderton. "It brings people together who normally wouldn't have the opportunity to get outside and see how hard these folks work and how positive the people in this area are."
"People do appreciate food but I think what at times gets lost is the hard work that goes into aspects of it and that's really unfortunate," he added.
"These folks do what they love…but it's constant hard work and a constant struggle for them. The community should come out to support them in these events to give back to them in times when they can use the opportunity," Rorrei said.