Editors Note: As you may know the York County Agricultural Society will be participating in Give Local York, on May 3rd. This blog post will be going up early to further exemplify why we chose our donations to go towards Ag Education. If you’d like to learn more about our cause please visit our Give Local page at, https://www.givelocalyork.org/organizations/york-county-agricultural-society!
Two of the main components of any Fair that are sometimes overlooked by the general public are Agriculture and Education.
Fairs across the world are rooted in Agriculture as many were founded in an era that featured most people growing and producing their own food. While the history of Fairs is extensive there is no doubt that it is steeped in agricultural traditions. Early Fairs became an annual event for farmers to showcase their crops and/or harvest, to show off their livestock for bragging rights and to inspect the latest farm equipment. As time passed homemaking exhibits and competitions were added to showcase the skills that many women had perfected in cooking, textiles and various other areas. Through the years the presence of agriculture has been the focal point and the purpose of Fairs.
Fairs have also had an extensive history from an educational standpoint of teaching and offering new learning opportunities. Whether learning came from an exchange of information between exhibitors, looking at displays to see new and best practices in Agriculture or through formal seminars and sessions, Fairs have always been at the forefront in combining Agriculture and Education.
Fast forward into the modern era of Fairs and over the last few decades with the rapid disappearance of the family farm across the landscape of our country, Fairs have taken on even more of a role in Agriculture education.
According to the USDA Agriculture Census, over a ten-year period from 2007 to 2017 the number of farms in the United States dropped by over 162,000. In Pennsylvania alone the state had nearly 10,000 fewer farms in 2017 than it did just a decade earlier. Not only are the number of farms dropping, but even more eye opening is the fact that as urban sprawl continues to spread, we are seeing a significant drop in the number of acres of farm land. The state of Pennsylvania lost 530,576 acres of farm land from 2007 through 2017 – equivalent to 829 square miles or nearly twice the size of New York City.
As the landscape shifts, the Agriculture industry is constantly evolving and at times finding new ways to move forward. Urban Farming, Hydroponics, sustaining eco-systems, GMO’s and many other more recent developments in Agriculture have taken key roles in the future of Agriculture, but seem somewhat foreign and unexplained to many people.
You may be wondering why I’ve mentioned all of this and how it relates to what we are trying to accomplish at the York Fair. The answer is quite simple. Considering the history of Fairs that are steeped in Agriculture, the disappearance of Farms and the new practices that are being established a Fair is the perfect place to continue to educate the public about Agriculture.
As we work to take the York Fair back to its historical roots and traditions, the presence and promotion of Agriculture is absolutely one of our main focuses. To this end I’m very excited to tell you about some of the things we are doing as we begin to promote and educate our fair guests on Agriculture.
First, we have created a new full-time staff position of Director of Agriculture Education and I am pleased to inform you that Nicole Groff has joined our team in this role. Nicole has a very strong Agriculture background and has a strong passion for the York Fair. In fact, she was our very first York Fair Queen back in 2013.
Our goal with this new position is to not only work closely with all Ag related components of the York Fair but to also become a resource for public and private school systems throughout the year and assist them in various ways with Ag Education. We can envision assisting teachers with curriculum materials, field trips, perhaps developing a speakers bureau of local Agriculture professionals who would be willing to assist taking Agriculture to the students and when we think big and way into the future maybe even a mobile Agriculture classroom that we could take to schools and other events. Nicole will also plan and oversee the Ag Education Center at the annual York Fair which may also be set up and operated for a couple of weeks in the winter to provide an opportunity for field trips in conjunction with classroom instruction.
Speaking of the Ag Education Center, I am thrilled to announce that it will be growing for the 2019 York Fair. Started just two short years ago, the Ag Education Center has been housed in Heritage Hall and has proven to be a popular exhibit for families and children. This year during the Fair the Ag Education Center will be relocated to Memorial Hall West which will almost double the amount of space and provide air conditioning for the exhibit and our Fair guests. We have set a lofty goal with the additional space of becoming one of the premiere Ag Education exhibits in the nation.
While there is no questioning that the York Fair has evolved and changed with York County throughout the last few decades to a more urbanized feel, our mission is to bring back a renewed sense of Agriculture involvement at the Fair. Our plan is to also build a strong bridge between the York Fair and York County 4-H and the various Future Farmers of America chapters around the region along with other Agriculture groups and organizations. These young adults are the very future of Agriculture and can mold and shape even younger children with their leadership and visibility. This is another key component of having a strong and visible Ag Education Center at the York Fair.
I also should add that we are working on improving other areas of the York Fair as well and I believe over the next two years you will notice some remarkable improvements. This year our two main focuses have been the Ag Ed Center and improving our Grandstand Entertainment lineup. For 2020 you are going to see an all new look in terms of the layout of the Fair, more improved Grandstand Entertainment options and we will unveil a new marketing campaign that will offer a fresh perspective of the York Fair all while continuing to be “America’s First Fair”.
Until June, may all your days be Fair days!
York Fair/York Expo Center