Alice Polcrack (third from left next to PA Ag Secretary Russell Redding) celebrates the official opening of the 107th PA Farm Show by cutting the ribbon with State Dairy Princess Selena Horst. Below, she addresses the crowd.
Story by Rick Hiduk / Photos courtesy of PA Farm Show
A Shunk resident who graduated from Sullivan County High School in 2022 is about to reach another milestone in a life that looks to have many more on the way, but she had some important work to do first. Alice Polcrack was appointed president of the FFA State Council in February of 2022 – the first council member from Sullivan County, let alone an office holder. From Jan. 6 to Jan. 8, Polcrack represented the 4-H at the state level for a final time, as she will age out of the program in less than a month.
On Friday, the nine-member State Council arrived at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg to attend the PA Preferred reception, a pre-Farm Show event geared toward vendors and other organizations. On Saturday, she spoke at the official opening ceremony of the 107th PA Farm Show – the largest agricultural event under one roof in the world – and shared ribbon-cutting duties with State Dairy Princess Selena Horst of Franklin County. On Sunday, she and the other council members toured the Farm Show, visiting vendors and taking in presentations as representatives of 4-H.
Polcrack joined Sullivan County 4-H when she was nine years old. A childhood friend who was already a member told her about her experience with 4-H at Camp Brulé, where her sister, Julie, had served as a counselor. “Surprisingly, since I was quite young, I didn’t know Julie was involved when I joined,” she explained. “I joined the Cooking Club in Eldredsville so I could attend camp that summer. I started out cooking but quickly became interested in shooting sports, archery, and civic engagement projects like County Council.” It was the latter that inspired her to run for State Council.
“She carried the passion for camp through her entire 4-H career,” said Sullivan County 4-H educator Sandra Pardoe, adding that Polcrack soon developed other interests, including rabbits. In 2022, Polcrack served as junior camp director at Northeast 4-H Camp.
“Being in 4-H allowed me to meet people from all over the country and try out many different areas of interest,” Polcrack remarked. “It made me a better communicator, student, leader, and an overall better person. 4-H is a community that extends worldwide and is always there for you no matter what.” According to Pardoe, Polcrack was already taking on leadership roles at the age of 13. The variety of experiences also affected her academic choices. “I greatly enjoyed the biology classes. I took all of the biology courses offered, including General Biology 1 and 2, Anatomy, Physiology, and AP Biology,” Polcrack related. “These classes always fulfilled my need to know how the natural world works and often answered my ‘why’ questions.”
Pardoe noted that Polcrack approached her several years ago about her interest in joining the State Council, and Pardoe helped her through the process. “She has known me for a very long time and always supported me,” Polcrack said of her mentor. “I am so grateful for everything she has done for me and all of the 4-Hers in Sullivan County. I am also thankful for the support of my family and other 4-H leaders and volunteers throughout my time in the program.”
In addition to Julie, Polcrack has two other sisters and two brothers. Her parents, Erik and Jane, are retired from the military. The family moved to the area in the early 2000s and lease some of their fields to local farmers who rotate crops like soybeans, corn, and hay.
“When I was much younger, I loved to sit on the round bales,” Polcrack related. “I appreciate the sense of community that rural living provides. I am very lucky to have had teachers that knew me well in and out of school and friends all over the county. Everywhere you go in Sullivan County, you are sure to run into someone you know and catch up for a while.”
Polcrack is forward thinking, but she realized that her appointment to the State Council and then President was a bit of an anomaly. “When I was first inducted, I couldn’t believe I had become the first person from Sullivan County to be a part of the council, especially the president,” she recalled. “To me, this signified that, despite limited opportunities compared to urban areas, 4-Hers like me could make a difference and lead others. I hope that my term will have inspired other 4-Hers from smaller areas to put themselves out there and strive for success.”
“My 4-Hers are my ‘kids,’ and I was extremely proud of Alice standing on the stage and receiving the gavel from the outgoing Council president,” said Pardoe. “Her State Council experience has helped her grow into a fine adult.”
At 19, Polcrack is a first-year student at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove. She is studying for planx to attend medical school after college and eventually work in public health for the government. Her educational choices, she maintains, have helped her with 4-H, and her 4-H experience has helped her with school. “Simply being a student and managing my time has prepared me well for being on State Council. Any classes that have involved public speaking and teamwork have also been incredibly useful for me,” Polcrack stated. “As representatives of 4-H, State Council members are often asked to speak at various events and interact with people who have limited experience with the program. My ability to adapt to these situations and improvise has been helpful.”
She expressed gratitude for the time that she has had with fellow Council members, to whom she refers as “incredible people and some of my closest friends.” Polcrack will cherish the memories of her time with them and intends to stay in contact after their retirement in February.
“The experience she has gained through her time in 4-H will help her one day become an amazing public health official,” Pardoe insisted. “I have no doubt that she will achieve any goal that she sets her mind to.”
As she segues into this next stage of her life, Polcrack offered some encouragement to youths who are interested in 4-H. “I encourage any and everyone ages 5 to 18 to join 4-H,” she stated. “The skills you learn in each project are incredibly useful for your future. Even some of the more unusual ones can teach you some powerful life lessons.”
Sullivan County readers who would like more information about 4-H can contact Pardoe at email@example.com.
The PA Farm Show runs through Saturday, Jan. 14. Admittance is free, but parking by credit card only, is $15.