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Virtual format a challenge for Farm Show vendors

Because the 2021 Pennsylvania Farm Show has gone virtual, its outsized economic impact will likely be dampened this year.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Because the 2021 Pennsylvania Farm Show has gone virtual, its outsized economic impact will likely be dampened this year.

For 105 years the Farm Show has been drawing crowds.

“Through good times and bad. Through feast and famine and war and peace and now, a pandemic,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding in a Farm Show Facebook post.

Each year the Farm Show usually generates $90 million in economic activity and sees more than half a million people visitors.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the show is taking a year to lie fallow.

RELATED: Secretary of agriculture highlights ways to experience the 2021 virtual Pennsylvania farm show

While some activities moved online, many others were cancelled.

Hotels and restaurants that usually host visitors may be the likeliest to lose business due to the show moving online.

In addition, with no public activities at the Farm Show Complex, the hundreds of vendors who depend on Farm Show profits will not be able to sell in-person this year.

“We do several smaller craft shows throughout the year, we do a lot of online and wholesale sales with our business, but Farm Show we reach the most people and sell the most product,” said Andrew Miller, who, along with his wife Ashley, owns Honeybee Creations in Lancaster County.

Honeybee Creations sells pure beeswax candles and blocks, as well as honey.

Despite having sold at the Farm Show for more than 15 years, the couple said they understood why it had to go virtual.

“We were kind of heartbroken that we wouldn’t be there, but we had concerns about being there and obviously contracting the coronavirus,” Ashley Miller said.

The Farm Show has taken several measures to help vendors sell goods online this year. They created the Pennsylvania Farm Show Trail, a map of vendors across the state with links to their websites.

“Those that have online sales have really been able to pivot and adapt their business model so that they can continue to reach their customers and we are working to help them do that,” said Shannon Powers, press secretary for the Department of Agriculture.

The Farm Show is also hosting online seminars for agri-businesses all week on topics such as launching a business and building online sales.

RELATED: Missing those Farm Show milkshakes? Here's how you can get your hands on one during the virtual PA Farm Show

Some businesses have found other ways to sell iconic Farm Show favorites.

The Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association is offering its famous milkshakes from a food cart.

The Pennsylvania Co-operative of Potato Growers is selling fresh doughnuts at select grocery stores.