26 Aug 2020

Maine Fairs & Agriculture: what’s the connection?

Real Maine / About Us / Blog / Seasons / Fall / Maine Fairs & Agriculture: what’s the connection?

An important history:

Agricultural Fairs have been a proud tradition for generations in Maine. Here’s evidence of this long history in this excerpt from the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture in his annual report of 1866:

“Our agricultural societies are doing much to elevate the system of agriculture. The annual gatherings of farmers, when their choicest animals are brought together for the inspection of brother farmers, tends to make the annual cattle show the most improving of any day of the year. Every Farmer should take pride in it, and use it as an instrumentality made by him for his own benefit, and should go to its business meeting, with the full resolve to do all that in him lies for its prosperity; that it may be made a power to be felt throughout the county, in the improvement of husbandry, and a direct instrumentality to benefit each, by the influence which it exerts on all.”

A dedicated future:

154 years later, the staff at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry are still passionate about these annual events. They perform roles that range from licensing and regulation, promotion, and supporting animal health, to participating with educational displays and the judging of entries.

During Maine’s fair season, MDACF staff collectively spend nearly 120 days supporting fairgrounds around our state! (That’s not including the fair program manager or Harness Racing staff.)

Here are just a few of the services the MDACF provides to Agricultural Fairs:

Maine State Veterinarians paint the skeleton on a steer at the Fryeburg Fair
  • Fair program management (licensing, regulation, stipend payouts, marketing, etc.)
  • Harness Racing program management
  • Animal Health & Welfare inspections and guidance
  • Plant Health information and judging of horticultural exhibits
  • Agricultural Education programs and information for fair management and public
  • Weighing of market animals
  • Certification of scales
  • Coordination with other agencies for licensing and inspections
  • Annual evaluation of grounds and programming
  • A lot of comradery and support!

Planning a visit to a Maine Agricultural Fair in 2021? Here are tips from our staff to make the most of your time there!

Missy Jordan (Fair Coordinator) – “Go early, stay late! Your gate fee is one of the most reasonable costs of family entertainment you will find. It allows you an entire day full of livestock, education, entertainment and attractive displays from local craftspeople!”

Rachel Fiske (Asst. State Veterinarian) – “Ask the youth exhibitors at the Litchfield Fair about their animals. They are so engaged it’s encouraging for the future of Maine agriculture. Also, don’t miss the cleanest dairy cows on display during the Maine State Holstein show at the Windsor Fair!”

Carolyn Hurwitz (Asst. State Vet) – “One of my favorite barns to visit at the Common Ground Fair is the poultry barn! There are all kinds of unusual birds at this fair especially, and it’s a great learning experience to see them all labeled and looking their best. Several Maine fairs have outstanding poultry displays. Make sure to take a walk through!”

Anne Trenholm (Ag Promotions) – “Visit the milking parlor. Not all fairs have them (Piscataquis Valley Fair and Fryeburg Fair do!). Not a lot of farms have a place for the public to come into a facility. I like to go in and watch the farmers do a routine—they get the cow prepared, cleaned, and in a matter of minutes, you’ve seen firsthand how a dairy animal plays a role getting us milk that cheese makers or creameries will turn into a nutritious food. You’ll likely need to be there in the late afternoon, between 3 and 5 p.m. to see it. It happens quick, but it’s an important part of the day.”