Written by Art Petrosemolo
Garden Spot Village Resident Art Petrosemolo met Danielle Oberholtzer and Jeremiah Snyder through a series he wrote for the local newspaper about local Future Farmers’ of America (FFA) teens who raise lambs and goats to compete in the 103 annual Pennsylvania Farm Show. He wrote this article after their final competition in Harrisburg.
The Super Bowl came early for two local FFA teens when like their NFL counterparts – after months of preparation (at fairs and farm shows), they took their market lambs and goats to Harrisburg to match up against the best from across the state at the 103rd edition of the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
It was both an exciting and stressful time for Manheim’s Jeremiah Snyder, 16, and Ephrata’s Danielle Oberholtzer, 19, who unlike many Farm Show visitors who head first to the food venues, were hard at work in the bowels of the arena preparing their animals for scrutiny by professional judges in tight quarters not far from the Show’s small arena.
For Snyder, who bred his lamb last winter, it was the culmination of nine months of hard work at his eighth Farm Show. For Oberholtzer, who admitted to being a little nervous before heading into the ring, it was her first Farm Show. She acquired her lamb and goat in late summer from professional breeders.
Both teens told me when I first met them last summer, that their goals for the lambs and goats was to have them selected high in their class so they would go into the auction ring where their selling price would be far above market value. The sale of their animals would help them as they both planned to save the money for college.
Unfortunately for both Snyder and Oberholtzer, their animals did not finish high enough in the class competition to be selected for auction but both teens were pleased to have shown their animals in the Farm Show setting before a packed arena. “Being selected for the auction ring would have been the icing on the cake,” they said.
Oberholtzer did not make the auction cut with her pure bred Hampshire lamb but received encouraging words from the event judge. “The judge took time to give me some good pointers,” she said. Snyder’s lamb Mallet was a little lighter than he had hoped and was the smallest in the class. “The judge said his hips weren’t straight,” Snyder said, “which is genetic and nothing I could have corrected.”
On January 8, Oberholtzer and Snyder brought their Boer goats to the small arena to against competition from across the state. Oberholtzer’s goat faired better in this arena, making the cut to go to auction.
It isn’t easy raising show and market quality animals and both teens will attest to that with the hours they have spent feeding, exercising and grooming the animals for the past several months.
Snyder and Oberholtzer are not rookies in raising livestock. They both had a long run grooming their animals, showing sheep and goats at the summer and fall fair circuit and farm shows in Lancaster County.
Snyder breeds and raises his lambs and goats at the Herr Family Farm in Manheim. He picked his show entrants from the spring flock of sheep and herd of goats. Oberholtzer, who will begin breeding this year, purchased her show animals in late summer.
Both teens also were busy working during the year and attending school while caring for the animals.
Snyder is a junior at Manheim Central High School and works, milking cows at Baker Hill Farm to save money for college. He hopes to attend Thaddeus Stevens. He also has a number of goats, lambs and hogs to care for during the week in addition to helping his dad with the care and feeding of a beef steer and dairy beef steer. Snyder’s male lamb, Mallet, a Shopshire cross breed and his male Boer goat, Spitfire, were selected as Farm Show animals a few months after their lambing and kidding in the spring.
Snyder and Oberholtzer were well aware that the Pennsylvania Farm Show competition was going to be a lot different than local fairs. “The entries come from across the state and the competition in each class is fierce,” Snyder says.
Snyder still has several years to compete at the junior level and is looking to the 2019 show circuit for his goats and lambs with an eye to an auction finish in the 2020 Farm Show.
Oberholtzer, a 2017 Ephrata High School graduate, is working this year to earn money for college. She looks forward to a career in the ag industry. A five year FFA member, Oberholtzer is a veteran showing lambs at a number of local fairs and has been on the circuit for four years. She was pleased at how her animals showed during the fair season but admitted to being a little nervous in the run up to her first Farm Show. Oberholtzer’s animals are housed and trained at Dave and Jen Knowles’ farm in Ephrata. Her Farm Show lamb was a Hampshire pure bred. Her goat was a Boer.
An Ephrata High School grad, Oberholtzer hopes to study agriculture in college starting next fall.
Oberholtzer’s cousin Bailey, 12, and brother Andrew, 13, also got their first taste of raising livestock this year with their lambs Curly and Larry competing at the Farm Show.
Oberholtzer worked with Bailey and Andrew all fall to care for the animals as well as exercising them several times each week and being sure they were friendly and used to the handling that judges do at any competition.
Both teens were naturally disappointed their animals didn’t place higher in Harrisburg but are not discouraged and all said they will be back in 2020.