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Farm life demystified in Butler County

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Cooper Walbert, 2, of Winfield Township, feeds hay to a steer at the HarLo farm in Jefferson Township during the Butler County Farm Tour on Saturday, October 5, 2013.

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Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

The children couldn't shed their shoes fast enough to jump into a grain silo at Har-Lo Farms in Jefferson Township on Saturday for the 16th annual Butler County Farm Tour.

The balmy fall weather and free, self-guided tour was expected to turn out more than 1,000 visitors at the farm.

The featured stops included Dave Jones Turkey Farm and Thiele Dairy Farm, both in Winfield; Rustic Acres Winery near Butler; and Winfield Winery in Winfield.

Visitors toured barns, marveled at the large tractors and equipment, petted animals and jumped on a hay ride at the 1,300-acre Har-Lo farm.

“My favorite part is that I got to feed a baby calf,” said 4-year-old Emma Salasky of Butler.

“We got to do a lot of fun things like going in the bin with all of that corn,” said Emma's sister, Katrina Salasky, 10.

Exposure to the farming way of life was the purpose of the tour, which was sponsored by the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, the Butler County Cooperative Extension and the Butler Conservation District.

John Deere tractors, classic Farmall faded red tractors and gigantic combines were objects of curiosity for the non-farm folk.

“People keep asking me what this piece of equipment is and how much horsepower it has,” said Jim Foertsch, one of the owners of the family-run Har-Lo Farms.

Foertsch was standing next to two hulking combines, which harvest grain by cutting, thrashing and separating soy bean, wheat, oats and other crops.

“Every time you eat a bowl of cereal, it's been picked and cut by a combine somewhere,” said Foertsch, who added that “combine” comes from the multiple tasks performed by the machine.

“This tour is beneficial because people have got to know that their food doesn't start at a supermarket,” he said.

James Boldy, vice president of the Butler Farm Bureau, said, “This kind of event shows people what farmers go through to grow food and how much they care for their animals.”

The tour also highlighted the work that goes into making local wines.

Visitors lined up for free tasting at Winfield Winery with its 36 different varieties.

“A lot of people are surprised by the quality of the wine,” said owner and wine maker John Ricchuito, an Arnold native.

His “Winfield Country Red” and “Fredonia” have taken best American wine variety in the state at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, among other awards.

Ricchuito buys his grapes from Northeast, near Erie, and berries from Snyder's Farm in North Oakland Township near Chicora.

Of course, the farm tour was good for his business, according to Ricchuito, but the event “helps people to learn that these wines are hand-crafted and local.”

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or

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