The Big Picture: A fall full of fairs

WHAT NON-FARMERS ARE SAYING ABOUT FARMING

the leaves are turning golden and the soybean dust is blowing; fall has arrived.

For farmers, fall brings with it long hours in the combine, stress over the weather and anxious glances at the yield monitor. For non-farmers, fall starts when school starts and thoughts turn to coloured pencils and new wardrobes. For both farmers and non-farmers alike, the third season of the year brings the much anticipated fall fair.

history repeating
Fall fairs are a tradition in many cultures all over the world. Typically coinciding with harvest, the local fall fair gives the community an opportunity to get together and celebrate the bounty of the growing season. They began as a chance to exhibit and auction livestock and crops and a good place to learn new skills and demonstrate prowess with the plough.

Although today’s fall fairs still feature some of the activities of old, the landscape of the fairgrounds have changed. Today, fall fairs are enjoyed by all. Many urbanites pack up their kids and take a drive to the closest town outside the big city to experience the excitement of the fair. Others stay right at home and wait for the farm to come to them in events like Agriculture in the City in Mississauga or the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. 

Although seemingly difficult to imagine the importance of a farm fair in the big city, the city-focused fall fairs of today aren’t that far off from their historical counterparts. The very first plowing match in Ontario was held at the corner of Young Street and Clare Avenue in 1846. It seems the idea of holding a fair about farming in downtown Toronto isn’t as far fetched as one might think. Granted, the fairs of today and the fairs of the past may look a little different.

The focus on celebrating the bounty of the harvest is not lost in modern day fairs but it is sometimes hard to find. With much of the population having no connection to the farm, understanding the growing season and the reason for celebration can be challenging.

embracing the challenge
The challenge of drawing connections between food, fuel and fibre to the farm for non-farmers is ongoing in the agricultural industry and the fall fair is often the starting point of the discussion. The fair presents the perfect stage for discussions on everything from local food to environmentally responsible farming and rural sustainability.

Many farm organizations utilize this opportunity to start the discussion by having booths and displays at the major fall fairs. With a captive audience it’s prime real estate to teach non-farmers the importance of what their rural neighbours do for the environment, the economy and the nation’s food supply.  •