Youth Participation at Agricultural Fairs
Learning about History, Agriculture, Science & More
Agricultural fairs are an important tradition in New England, and all across the country. Such events showcase rural skills and traditions, and help to promote a strong connection between communities and their physical surroundings. In addition to the requisite amusement rides and midway games, fairs bring a celebration of an agrarian lifestyle, New England history, and local culture to communities all over the state throughout the summer and early fall. Each fair offers families opportunities participate in an important local tradition, and offers a myriad of learning experiences!
Of course, families can learn about vegetable farming, keeping livestock, creating beautiful quilts, identifying local wildlife, dairy production, and numerous other topics by viewing displays, watching demonstrations, and meeting local experts. However, a learning opportunity that is perhaps even more valuable for kids is becoming a fair exhibitor!
Each local fair offers community members an opportunity to enter items that showcase their talents and expertise in a wide range of categories. Community members of almost any age are invited to submit items, making the events an inter-generational opportunity to be a part of a historic New England tradition…
The exhibition hall categories offered at each fair are often similar, and range from sewing articles of clothing to growing squash, collections representing local natural history to assembled breakfast trays. Preparing homemade or handmade or homegrown items for the fair is a great way for kids to acquire new skills, and the casually competitive nature of the contest can help to provide some extra motivation. The possibilities for entries are nearly limitless – almost every skill relating to self-sufficiency is represented! Kids who have unique talents that may not be utilized or showcased in school may find that entering an item in the fair provides a perfect outlet for their skill.
With fair season kicking off during the next few weeks, now is the time to begin preparing entries. The Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Association offers a full list of the state’s fairs on its website, accompanied by links to fair websites where families can find lists of the exhibition categories offered at each event. Once you’ve decided on a fair and a category, begin preparing! Learn to execute a new recipe, frame a beautiful piece of art made at school, wash the quilted pillow made as a Christmas present, or collect some interesting items from nature.
Preparing a submission requires kids to practice many academic skills – reading, math, science, art, and social studies are all represented by the multi-disciplinary projects that can be done in order to create a submission. Cooking and canning requires good reading comprehension along with basic math and science skills; a piece of good art requires not only artistic talent, but the ability to understand its subject within a historical context; and a collection of mushrooms requires scientific knowledge and strong reading skills for interpreting field guides!