HARRISBURG – A Cumberland County business each year provides the main ingredient for one of the Pennsylvania Farm Show’s most talked about exhibits – the butter sculpture.
Sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association and Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program and created by Conshohocken sculptors Jim Victor and his wife, Marie Pelton, the butter sculpture has been wowing Farm Show crowds for decades.
Since its debut in 1991, the nearly 1,000 pound butter sculpture has depicted everything from soldiers to students, from football players to farmers and such celebrities as Ben Franklin, Milton Hershey and President Dwight Eisenhower.
Yet without the butter donated by Land O’ Lakes of South Middleton Township, the sculpture may not be there.
Land O’Lakes Inc., is a dairy cooperative with approximately 2,200 dairy farmer member-owners, including more than 1,000 in Pennsylvania.
“The 1,070 Pennsylvania dairy member farms produce over seven million pounds of milk per day, most of which get processed at our Carlisle plant where we make butter and dried milk powders,” Thomas Wegner, Land of Lakes director of governance and leader development, told the U.S. House and Senate Ag Committees in 2016.
He said that Land O’Lakes has a long history in Pennsylvania and has made Land O’Lakes’ brand butter at the Carlisle-area plant for decades.
He said that in 1997, Land O’Lakes merged with the Atlantic Dairy Cooperative.
“Since merging, we have invested significant dollars to expand the (South Middleton) plant’s butter production capacity, double its dried powder packaging capacity and enhance its water filtration process,” Wegner said.
He said that the company has invested $118 million in the Carlisle-area plant since 1998.
“The Carlisle plant has served as an important asset to Pennsylvania employing 200 people,” he said in 2016. “It has provided a critical regional function in balancing milk supplies and represents one of Land O’Lakes most indispensable dairy assets.”
For the 2017 Farm Show, Victor and Pelton made a sculpture honoring the history of Pennsylvania dairy farmers’ environmental stewardship. That sculpture showed crop management, streambank fencing, groundcover near streams and even manure storage facilities.
Jim Harbach, a dairy farmer from Sugar Valley in Clinton County, called the butter sculpture “a creative way to showcase the dairy industry and for dairy farmers to tell their story.”
The butter sculpture, built on a wire framework, takes Victor and Pelton a couple weeks to create atop a wire framework.
After the Farm Show, the sculpture is dismantled and the butter is scraped from that framework. The butter then is transported to a Juniata County dairy farm, put into a methane digester and converted into biofuel to power the farm.
Victor and Pelton have been working in a Farm Show Complex refrigerated case for several days on the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show butter sculpture. The couple, wearing protective clothing to keep them warm and working with various sculpting tools, happily transforms multiple 55-pound blocks of butter into the magic that is the butter sculpture.
The sculpture is expected to be unveiled for the press on Thursday and will be available for public viewing at the Farm Show, which opens Saturday. Vehicle parking is $15.