by George Looby, DVM
For the past dozen years a group of interested citizens in the Town of Woodstock, CT have sponsored and produced an event which they call Celebrating Agriculture. The day focuses strictly on the people in Woodstock and surrounding communities who earn their living working in one of the many phases of agriculture.
Celebrating Agriculture is geared to bring the people attending closer to those who bring food and other agricultural products to their tables and homes. Close up and personal would seem to be one way to characterize the day’s events. There are displays and saw mill set-ups, huge logging trucks and logging demonstrations.
This one-day affair is a bargain all the way around, free admission and free parking. Another bargain is the farmer’s breakfast which is served in one of the largest buildings on the grounds. This year over 700 breakfasts were served. The organizing committee has the full support of the Woodstock Agricultural Society in allowing the use of its buildings and grounds to produce Celebrating Agriculture.
The first display that came into view when entering the exhibit area was the area where telephone poles were erected to allow lumberjacks and professional tree workers display their climbing skills in competition with fellow workers. The many aspects of forestry were demonstrated, allowing observers to see just how physically demanding and potentially dangerous their work is.
The emphasis was on locally grown and produced, allowing attendes to talk directly to the person who grew the berries, picked them, cooked and canned them and put them in jars for sale at farmers markets and local retail outlets. Offered for sale were fall flowers, herbs and late season vegetables. Christmas tree growers showed off their many varieties of trees.
The celebration is an educational event and its main focus is to make those who may have had little or no exposure to things agricultural more aware of how complex the whole process is. An organization that has done much to raise the level of awareness to things agricultural is the Last Green Valley. The valley encompasses an area roughly from central Massachusetts down to Norwich, CT. It is a National Historic Corridor, funded in part by federal grants with headquarters in Danielson, CT and has the mission of preserving the unique character of northeastern Connecticut and beyond by preservation of undeveloped land and fostering agricultural activity.
The Extension Service of the University of Connecticut has sponsored Master Gardener Programs for many years, allowing those with a particular interest in gardening to increase their own level of knowledge and, in turn, pass that knowledge on to those who seek assistance in solving their gardening problems.
Other groups that support agriculture in the region include the Agvocate Program, a program that only a few years ago consisted of five towns and now has 14 and growing, was designed to give support to local agriculture in a wide variety of ways including both farmer and consumer education together with the establishment of Agricultural Commissions or agencies in each town.
Other groups that had displays were those whose primary activity is that of ensuring that open space be preserved and farming encouraged including assistance to young farmers whose usually limited resources make it difficult to get started in farming without a boost from a supportive group.
For those whose interest lie in the history of farming in northeastern Connecticut, the Brunn Barn was open to all of those who attended. The Brunn Barn opened in 2005 with a collection of artifacts collected, loaned or otherwise acquired that reflect the history of farming in the region roughly from 1860 to 1950.
For parents with young children this show is a must. Classroom instruction can only go so far in bringing children into a closer relationship with farming. Here they are able to touch, see, feel, hear and smell much of what it is all about. An event not to be missed.