Fred Foster’s miniature farm display is a familiar sight at the Indiana County Fair, but for thousands attending the 98th Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg last week, it was a brand-new feature and a real crowd-pleaser.
Tots and teens, barn lovers and bull riders, gardeners and grandparents, tractor buffs and toy collectors all seemed fascinated by Foster’s 200-square-foot creation, which includes more than a dozen buildings; assorted cows, sheep, pigs and a flock of 50 chickens; various trucks, tractors, and farm machinery; and an outhouse complete with a hornet’s nest under its eaves.
As part of the project, Foster, 76, of Indiana, handcrafted intricate replicas of his grandfather’s house and barn in Brush Valley Township.
Mike Witczak and his son, Anthony, 11, of Summit Hill, took their time absorbing all the details of the display, which offers a glimpse of mid-20th century American farm life. “I’d like to get back to that era. The attitude then was that tough times don’t last, but tough people do,” Witczak said.
Many show attendees commented that the exhibit brought back warm memories of growing up on a farm or of childhood visits to grandparents. Others wanted to move in, with one student, a member of FFA (Future Farmers of America), asking Foster to “shrink me, so I can live there and farm it forever!”
“Exquisite work!” exclaimed Rose Kupchinsky, of State College, after she inspected the wee farm’s detailed scenes of planting, cultivation and harvest. “Beautiful craftsmanship!”
Some weary Farm Show attendees thought the rocker on the front porch looked like a perfect spot to relax, while others wondered aloud about the contents of the tiny package on top of the mailbox.
Children excitedly pointed out the rabbit sprinting away from a stalking fox in the cornfield and tried to count cabbages and piglets.
Dignitaries including the first lady of Pennsylvania, Susan Corbett; Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley; state Secretary of Agriculture George Greig; and Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey all found time to visit the farm this week to shake Foster’s hand and view the display situated in the Today’s Agriculture exhibit area.
It all started in 1988 when Foster, a lifelong Indiana County resident, wondered if he could build a barn to 1:16 scale with an authentic double plank floor. It took nine months in his spare time to finish the big (23 inches by 36 inches by 26 inches) red structure. But the barn looked lonely without a farmhouse — which needed a woodshed, and a chicken coop, and a milk house, and a corn crib — and the little farm grew and grew.
Many of those who came to the Farm Show said they had seen media coverage of Foster’s pint-sized homestead and made the trip especially to see it for themselves.
In 1993, the exhibit made its debut at the Summerville Toy Show where it won Best of Show that year and every year it participated.
Foster’s farm first appeared at the Indiana County Fair in 2000 and has returned annually, although it is never exactly the same from one year to the next. It was at the fair that a Farm Show representative first saw it and issued the special invitation that resulted in the miniature farm’s trip to Harrisburg.