Farm Show 2020: Butterflies feast on grape-flavored Gatorade

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A green light means you can open the door and enter a magical world.

It’s really a large temperature-controlled white tent that doesn’t hint at the fun inside. A pair of large butterfly cutouts atop the tent distinguish Folk’s Butterfly Farm from other tents inside the Giant Expo building at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Step through the door and enter a room where between 1,500 and 1,800 butterflies can be found. They hang from the ceiling, on the walls, on a partition and fly from person to person.

They land on shoulders and heads and feed on the cotton swabs soaked in grape-flavored Gatorade that visitors are handed before they enter the room.

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The butterfly farm is the brainchild of David Folk, who helped his daughter create the first one 13 years ago.

“She needed a [Future Farmers of America] project, and we came up with the butterfly farm,” Folk said Saturday as butterflies flew around the dozens of people in the tent. “She finished second in the nation in agri-business, going against two bee businesses and one pig business.”

No one had ever tried a butterfly farm in the competition before, he said.

It costs $2.50 to spend about 10 minutes with the butterflies. And it’s not just for children. Adults were wearing smiles just as big as kids as they took their time walking through the tent.

“The No. 1 issue is making sure you don’t step on a butterfly,” Folk said. “You have to look around your feet before you take a step because they like to hang out on the floor.”

Folk, from Nescopeck in Luzerne County, also sets up his butterfly farm exhibit at the Bloomsburg Fair each year, and takes smaller mobile versions on educational trips to schools in his area.

Monarchs are easy to pick out in the tent, and seemed to be the most plentiful, although there are nine species represented in the farm. There are males and females, and Folk can tell you which are which.

There are females with eggs, and a board filled with chrysalises of various species. Folk didn’t have any caterpillars on Saturday, but said, “wait a few days, and we will have some.”

Folk’s daughter, Kristie Good, wasn’t in the tent yet on Saturday, but he expected her later in the day. Just like she works in the farm she helped create, she also stuck with agriculture.

“She’s an ag teacher,” Folk said with a smile.

Folk’s Butterfly Farm is just one of the numerous interactive exhibits featured at the Farm Show in Harrisburg, which runs through Jan. 11.

There are tubs of corn kernels that kids can manipulate with toy trucks and beach toys at the beef council exhibit. Go to the dairy barn, and kids can learn how to milk a cow on a milking simulator.

They aren’t interactive, but kids scampered over dozens of pieces of farm equipment as their parents captured their pictures on cellphones.

And exhibits featuring newborn chicks and weeks-old piglets also garnered plenty of attention from the younger crowd.

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