By Stephen Vance, Editor
It still seems strange to me that in our neck of the woods, the annual Fall Fair is a sign that the kids are about to return to school.
In spite of my thinking it somewhat strange, after 40 something years I’ve embraced having a Fall Fair in August, and it has become a favourite time of year for me.
The Fall Fair may not be the highly anticipated event that it used to be in the glory days of fairs when the competition for people’s attention did not include smart phones and video games, but it should be.
The Fall Fair is a celebration of not just our agricultural heritage, but our agricultural present, and it provides a small snapshot of our agricultural future. From livestock to produce, the Fall Fair captures the agricultural activity in our area, and while that level of activity is impressive, the average age of our farmers is inching ever higher, and there is concern about who will replace them.
Farming might not be a sexy profession by today’s standards, but it is a crucial profession, and unless we are willing to watch large factory farms take over all of the production of our food, or for China to become our primary source of food, we need to find ways to make smaller scale farming more appealing (and viable), and we need to be training a new breed of farmers.
If I was to give advice to kids returning to high school, or college or university, I would urge them to consider the trades or agriculture as potential future careers – people in both of those fields are becoming greyer with each passing year, and both of those fields are crucial for the sustainability of our communities.
It would be wonderful to see elementary and high schools building upon programs that introduce young students to that magical world of growing food and handling livestock. It would be wonderful to see field trips to farms, orchards, and the various industries that support and serve the agricultural sector.
Do I think anything close to that will happen? No, not really, but the seeds could be planted by parents in rural areas.
Take your kids to the Fall Fair, but don’t head straight to the pony rides or the games, and instead head first to the livestock displays and demonstrations, take in the prize-winning produce. Talk to the farmers, learn how that wonderful produce finds its way from the field to your kitchen, and encourage the kids to ask questions.
I know, I know, another of those granola-crunching hippie pipe dreams perhaps, but I don’t think anyone would argue that one of the crises we will face in the coming years will be a lack of farmers to run small- to mid-scale farms that we rely on in order that our grocery store shelves are stocked and our farmers’ markets are bustling. So, anything that might spur some interest in the industry amongst the younger set can’t be a bad thing.
It’s a busy weekend in Meaford. Take in the Fall Fair, cool off with a film at the Meaford International Film Festival, if you’ve got a dog, you might want to head to the Blue Dolphin Pool for the second annual Dog Days of Summer event, for those that fish, consider taking part in the Meaford Salmon & Trout Derby, and don’t forget to stop by the farmers’ market.
After the action-packed weekend, perhaps as you sit down for Sunday dinner, consider the food in front of you, and ask yourself where that food has come from, and more importantly, where would you like it to come from? If you’d prefer your food to come from farmers like those you met over the weekend at the Fair and the farmers’ market rather than a Chinese factory farm, it just might be worth making the profession more appealing to youngsters.
We’ve got to start somewhere.