September marks the 50th All-American Dairy Show, and since the first event in 1963, six Pennsylvania farm families have remained fixtures in the show ring and behind the scenes. They are the Yoder family of Pinesedge Farm, Shoemakersville, Berks County; Patrick family of Maple Dell Farm, Woodbine, Md.; Marchezak family of Bentleyville, Washington County; Gable family of Snider Homestead Farm, New Enterprise, Bedford County; Stiles family of Spring Valley Farm, Westminster, Md.; and Shank family of Palmyra Farm, Hagerstown, Md. Each family will be featured in a story as the show approaches.
The All-American Dairy Show features 22 shows in six days in addition to the nation's only all-dairy antiques show. Last year's show saw nearly 2,500 animals and more than 900 exhibitors from across the nation.
Sam Yoder is a founding father of the All-American Dairy Show. He and wife Phyllis established Pinesedge Farm in Shoemakersville, Berks County, in the 1940s, taking over his father's Shorthorn beef herd after returning from service in World War II. It wasn't long before he added three Milking Shorthorns and discovered his passion for the breed.
By 1950, Sam tried his hand at showing, and it only took exhibiting once at the Reading Fair to spark the "show bug." He passed it down to his four children, Samuel, Nedra, Fred and Wendy. Show events were considered family time, and every season they exhibited their show string of 20-25 head at local, state and national events.
A Show is Born
In 1953 the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association, or PDCA, was formed under the direction of Pennsylvania Dairymen's Association. One year later Sam became the committee's Milking Shorthorn representative.
Thanks to support and promotion by PDCA and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, a 1956 bill provided $10,000 for the first statewide Junior Dairy Show.
As Yoder recalled, opening the Junior Dairy Show gave Ayrshire breeder Cuthbert Nairn a platform to promote his vision of a holding a national dairy show in Pennsylvania. Nairn lobbied for the show, and the Yoders remember many kitchen table discussions as they worked through the details of his dream.
In 1960, Nairn gained the backing of Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Leeland Bull and requested funds. Governor Scranton's 1963 budget awarded $50,000 to the show.
Yoder served on the All-American's original board of directors as the Milking Shorthorn representative for 30 years, along with Frances Kennedy, Brown Swiss; Nairn, Ayrshire; Gene Harding, Guernsey; Merle Miller, Jersey; and Obie Snider, Holstein.
A History of Success
For 24 years, Pinesedge Farm earned premier breeder and exhibitor banners and more than 25 grand or reserve grand champion titles at the All-American Dairy Show. Three times Pinesedge animals were named grand and reserve champion in the same show.
"Sam accomplished his goal of focusing on profitability and genetics, and it was evident in the show ring," said Denise Whiting, vice president of the Pennsylvania Milking Shorthorn Society.
Guckians Cherry II began the Yoder's success at the All-American, with a Pinesedge cow taking top honors every decade. Cherry earned the show's grand champion honors in 1968, daughter Pinesedge Charleen in 1972, and granddaughter Pinesedge Alfair Carleen in 1985 and 1986. Pinesedge BT Alfair EXP brought home the grand champion ribbon in 1995, 1996 and 1997 under the ownership of Majorie and John Kuszlyk of New York, who purchased the Pinesedge herd.
A rarity, Alfair EXP's full sister, Pinesedge BT Alfair TOO was named Junior Champion in 1997 at the All-American and at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis. She had a classification score of 5E- Excellent 95 at 15 years old, and transmitted those traits to her male and female offspring. Kuszmar Alfairs Othello, Alfair EXP's son, was awarded the Premier Sire of the International Milking Shorthorn Show at the World Dairy Expo for 10 years in a row.
"Alfair was an outstanding cow that was like no other in the Milking Shorthorn breed," Whiting said.
Remembering the Past
Yoder fondly recalls the All-American Dairy Show in its beginning, remembering that showmen previously only clipped animals' ears and tails. "It was many years before they began clipping heads and blending body hair," he said.
He added that in the show's early years, exhibitors were dispersed throughout the barns without regard to breed, which helped develop a greater rapport among farmers.
Yoder also noted communication at the show has changed drastically. "People used to stand in line at payphones four or five deep to call home for extra supplies, medicine or to talk to family."
Building the Future
Not only committed to outstanding genetics, Yoder supported youth achievement in the show ring.
In 2012, he was honored as the namesake of the Premier National Junior Show's Supreme Champion Heifer prize, the Samuel G. Yoder Crystal Star.
"We really wanted to recognize the youth who breed outstanding heifers," said producer Junia Isiminger of Union City, Erie County. "In today's dairy show world, many youth lease their animals or not be able to raise cows on their farm. This award highlights those animals in addition to the champion cows."
As a young exhibitor, Isiminger brought her winter yearling Milking Shorthorn to the Pennsylvania Junior Dairy Show. The heifer, despite being born Feb. 27, stood first in her class and was named the Junior Champion at her local county fair. She also earned a blue ribbon at the state show.
Yoder recognized the quality of Isiminger's heifer and convinced her to stay in Harrisburg for an extra two days to show the calf in the open show. Yoder even paid for the entry fee himself.
Isiminger was amazed when her heifer placed third among the best Milking Shorthorns in the country.
"It's been an honor to know Sam, and this is a very fitting way to recognize him," she says. "I can't thank him enough for sparking the passion for showing dairy cattle in me and now in my children."
A Legacy Worth Celebrating
The Yoders once tabulated their time spent in the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center between the state Farm Show, state Junior Show and the All-American. All told, Yoder spent at least two years of his life in the building.
When asked if it was it worth the time commitment, he said, "Seeing the generations come together, the positive changes in the breed and the lasting friendships, it has been worth every minute."