Commissioner Gregory C. Watson
Commissioner, Department of Agriculture Resources (DAR)
For 49 years, the Oakham Youth Agricultural Fair has been a place where girls, boys, young men and women come to show the animals, veggies and plants they’ve lovingly grown. Eva Grimes, one of the fair’s co-founders still attends wearing her T-shirt sporting the outline of the Massachusetts map. It bore the question: “whereinhellis Oakham?” The sales of T-shirt sales help support the fair. Another source of revenue is the Oakham phone book that is published and sold by the town’s youth.
I visited this jewel of a fair one sunny Saturday morning this month and instantly fell in love with the look, feel and pace of this great example of a proud Massachusetts tradition. I also recently visited the Truro Agricultural Fair to partake in the “Zuchinni500” 2012 Race.
I consider state agricultural fairs a great Massachusetts tradition because, according to Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Association, the first agricultural fair in the U.S. was held in Pittsfield in 1814. Today Massachusetts hosts 40 annual agricultural fairs. They fall into one of five categories: major fairs, community fairs, youth fairs, livestock shows and grange fairs. I wish I could visit each one every year! Each is unique but all are bound together by the common thread of the Commonwealth’s rich and proud agrarian heritage.
I enjoy each kind, but must admit I have a special fondness for our youth-oriented fairs firmly anchored in and supported by community that help inspire young people to pursue careers in agriculture. I believe that it is absolutely vital to do all that we can to support the next generation of Massachusetts farmers. Fairs help jumpstart and sustain “ag-passion” in young people.
Casual observers may miss the multidimensional nature of Massachusetts’s agricultural fairs. Visit a few this year while there’s still time and you will be amazed by their ability to simultaneously celebrate, educate, entertain, nourish and inspire. To find the listing of agricultural fairs in Massachusetts for the 2012 season, click here. Enjoy!