National Holstein Convention Returns to Pennsylvania for the First Time Since 1995

National Holstein Convention Returns to Pennsylvania for the First Time Since 1995

The National Holstein Convention was supposed to return to Pennsylvania last year for the first time since 1995, but COVID-19 canceled that plan.

Pennsylvania got a second chance in 2021, and the same thing almost happened again as restrictions persisted early in the year.

“We were concerned. As of March 1 it was looking like we may not have it,” said David Lentz, executive director of the Pennsylvania Holstein Association.

Since then, concern has been replaced by anticipation as the national convention will be held in Lancaster June 20-24.

So far, approximately 800 people have registered for the convention, down from the 1,200 who signed up for the event in 2019, which was held in Wisconsin. Still, Lentz is happy with the number considering the lingering effects of pandemic restrictions across the country.

He’s also pleased with the events lined up to showcase registered Holsteins and Pennsylvania dairy. More than 100 people have volunteered their time to get things ready for the convention, and Lentz is anxious to show Holstein enthusiasts from across the country what Pennsylvania is all about.

“We have a strong passion for dairy, and we’re excited to showcase our prime herds and high-quality breeding,” he said. “We’re proud of dairy in Pennsylvania.”

And when it comes to dairying in the state, diversity — in terms of size and type of operations that can be found the Keystone State — is an important element.

In fact, the diversity of Pennsylvania’s dairy landscape is reflected in the farm tours that will be held over the course of two days during the convention. On June 21, the Distinguished Young Breeder Tour will showcase three of the state’s Young Breeder award winners, and the operations vary from a 42-cow dairy that had the 10th highest Holstein breed age average in 2020, to a first generation farm milking 116 that has bred 32 Excellent cows since 2003.

The next round of tours will be held on June 23, and it includes Mercer Vu Farms in Mercersburg, which milks 3,200 cows; an operation that installed robotic milkers after a 2019 barn fire; two stops that highlight Amish and “English” farms; and a Cows to Cones Tour that focuses on farms that process and sell dairy products on site.

“We’ll take people to a typical Amish farm that is very progressive with quaint features, to a 1,600 cow dairy (Star Rock Farm in Conestoga) that is one of the best breeder herds,” Lentz said. Thirty-five cows that Star Rock is offering at the national convention sale will be on display during this tour stop.

“There’s multiple ways to do the dairy business and it’s pretty easy to find the diversity in Pennsylvania dairy,” Lentz said.

In addition to the tours, Lentz said other highlights include competitions for junior members and the sale, which will close out the convention. The sale will be held at the West Lampeter Community Fairgrounds.

Coming Together Over Cows
Even though the number of dairy farms and cows has declined since the state association last hosted the convention in 1995, Lentz said Pennsylvania has the largest junior membership in the country at 1,700, and that number has gone up over the years.

“Junior membership is a star on the dairy landscape. The enthusiasm is still strong, and the passion people have for dairy and Holsteins in Pennsylvania will be on full display at the convention,” he said.

Even though the convention was canceled last year and was in limbo during the early stages of 2021, Lentz said the Pennsylvania association has been preparing for the event on a daily basis since Jan. 1. He estimated thousands of hours have gone into planning for the convention, and more than 100 volunteers have pitched in to help.

“It’s become a pretty healthy part-time job for a lot of us,” Lentz said. “It’s been a wide array of emotions for all of us, considering the concern at the beginning of the year that it could be canceled again. But a lot of the COVID-19 restrictions have lessened, and we’ve been at this full tilt.”

One change to this year’s convention is the consolidation of meetings and board elections, which typically took place over two days but will now be covered in one day. The move allowed more events to be added to the schedule, which includes several nonfarm activities such as visits to Gettysburg, Hersheypark, Sight & Sound Theatres and Longwood Gardens.

Still, the dairy industry and the Holstein breed serve as the main draw for the convention, which attracts people from across the United States.

“You can have someone from Arizona with a 20,000-cow dairy sitting with a person from a 90-cow dairy in New York, and they form a friendship because it’s the Holstein cow that brings everyone together,” Lentz said. “The cows introduce us to each other, and the relationships we form at the convention make it memorable.”

 

Source: Lancaster Farming

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