The season is beginning! Ag fairs throughout the state start to heat up in late August and continue through early October. You know how it goes: The petted, pampered livestock with their ribbons. Carnival rides. Pig races. A country singer (or two). Animal pulls. Prized pumpkins. Bake-offs. And food. Sometimes it’s kind of gross food (deep-fried Oreos?), but we feel compelled to give it the old college try because of the novelty value.
Why do we go? There are around fifty different ag fairs throughout the state ranging from local fairs, which are town oriented, to district and 4-H fairs, both of which are larger affairs. These are well-attended events with an aggregate of hundreds of thousands of people attending throughout the season. It’s not the Big E (which runs for two weeks or so and attracts people from all over New England), but that’s not too shabby a number, either.
Still, what’s the attraction? Is it the tractor pulls? Is it those gigantic horses or oxen pulling heavy weights? Is it the cute little chicks or lambs? Is it the entertainment? Is it the handcrafted goods? Is it pie?
It’s probably all of those things in some measure. But deep down maybe those agricultural fairs remind us of who we are and where our food comes from. Once upon a time, milk didn’t just come from a carton at the store. You knew it came directly from a cow’s udder because it was your cow in your barn and you milked it. The apple in apple pie came from the tree in the backyard. It didn’t come from a bakery. You had to make pie crust, cut up the apples, and assemble and bake the pie. And if you wanted to eat pork, then, yes, the cute little piggie that grew up into a hog had to be slaughtered in order to eat. You didn’t walk up to the meat case and purchase your already-disassembled pig. You had to do it yourself.
We were closer to our food and appreciated it more because there were times when you didn’t know if there would be any provisions. Maybe there was a drought: no crops. Maybe your cow got sick: no milk and cheese. Maybe your hens stopped laying: no eggs. As much as we’d like to forget in a world where food is at our fingertips, there is a part of us that needs the reminder that it wasn’t always this easy (and it still isn’t in many parts of the world).
Go out and enjoy the fairs and compliment the folks who worked hard to show their prize livestock, baked the fragrant bread, put up the pickles and grew the largest pumpkin. There are a lot of people out there who deserve the praise because they preserve our heritage every day and help us to remember.
Hebron Harvest Fair
From Flickr Collection