GFF brings urban folks to country (Viewpoint)


(Editor’s note: Caryl Velisek is a longtime staff writer for American Farm Publications.)

It’s fair time and soon, the third week in September, a great many people in this area, will be attending the Great Frederick Fair.
Many of them have had no, or minimal, experience with agriculture. For those of us involved in agriculture, we know there is much more to fairs than carnival rides, corn dogs and cotton candy.
Many of our city friends don’t.
Our county and state fairs are the showplaces for what farmers do.
We take our livestock, our produce and much more to the fair for ribbons and recognition but also to let folks know what agriculture is and how it affects our lives.
Increasingly, because of agriculture’s efficiency, there are fewer and fewer who are in the production end, even here in the Frederick area, and that is one reason I work with the Great Frederick Fair each year.
I came to Maryland in the early 1970s, first to Frederick County, then to Howard County, then to Washington County and, 13 years ago, back to Frederick County.
I have been associated with the Frederick Fair in many different ways for most of that time, first as a 4-H mom, and later, as part of the Ag Education Public Relations Committee.
When I first came to the county, there was a young girl in 4-H along with my children, named Becky Brashear. She is now the general manager of the Fair.
Frederick County was mostly agricultural then, much of it dairy, but I have seen it grow significantly into a fairly large urban area while maintaining its agricultural roots.
Under Brashear’s enthusiastic leadership, along with Programs Manager Bob Fogle, another former 4-Her, and with the members of the public relations committee, the fair board and the whole-hearted cooperation of the Frederick County Board of Education, the fair has become, not only a place to see agriculture at its best — but a place to educate our school children, and their parents alike, about the importance of agriculture in their everyday lives — and allow then to have fun while doing so.
Also, in the process, we hope to create a desire in them to go into the field of agriculture in some way.
After receiving a good deal of information and preparation in their classrooms, Frederick school children are bused in during the fair.
They are shown, in hands-on experiences and activities, where and how their food and fiber is produced, all the while having new experiences, like seeing a calf born, getting to pet a lamb, watching wool spun or seeing how their corn-on-the cob grows on the actual plant and much more.
They will take this knowledge back to their homes, where most often the parents have had little or no experience with farms and food production, and share it with them.
We need to show and tell folks, and not just the kids, that their food is not grown in the rear of the supermarket.
It takes hard work and farmers and a good deal of knowledge. I believe, from experience and from talking to people who have seen what we do at the fair, this is a good way to do just that.