Here are just a few of the stories about the youth, animals and farmers that make the Great New York State Fair a great experience for participants and visitors.
The Woodis family moved to New York state six years ago when 80 new houses ‘grew’ up within one mile of their dairy farm in Massachusetts.
“We saw New York as ag-friendly in terms of land opportunities and vendors available to the dairy industry,” says Heather Woodis of Country Ayre Farms in Dewittville, NY, in Chautauqua County. The almost-700 cow dairy is a partnership with Heather’s parents, Dick and Joan Kimball and her younger brother Seth Kimball.
Maddie and Lily Woodis are the only members of the Canadaway 4-H Club with dairy projects and they wanted to show at the Great New York State Fair for the first time this year. The girls brought two intermediate calves to the Fair and showed in a class of 19 entries.
“We like showing and representing our farm,” said Maddie.
“It’s fun to be a part of the show. We entered 4-H fitting and showmanship and the (Holstein) breed show,” Lily added.
The girls help out on the farm as summer relief calf feeders and take care of their show animals. They also participate in the Dairy Princess program.
“Showing is a great way for the girls to share experiences with kids who have cows like they do, whether they come from a farm with 10 or 1,200 cows,” Heather said.
Lily and Maddie each received red ribbons with their calves Bubble Gum and Beauty from Wayne County Dairy Ambassador Gabriella Taylor.
The 4-H Building at the Fair was filled with diverse projects developed and created by youth statewide. New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball commented on the quality of youth involved in the Fair in a press release, saying “this state has some of the most talented youth in the entire country.”
For Cornell veterinary medicine student Noah Seward, the Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the Fair offered the opportunity to volunteer and educate the non-farm public about the dairy industry.
“The Center gives the public the opportunity to see the miracle of life, and all the care that goes into making cows comfortable which also makes them productive. Visitors can interact with a veterinarian, students, a herdsman, and farmers, and ask questions. The number one question I have been asked is why the calves are separated at birth,” Noah said.
That was a question that farmer Jon Gilbert was hearing, too. Gilbert, standing next to a calf hutch outside the Birthing Center with a five-hour-old bull calf, explained to Fair visitors that the newborn calves are moved to their own housing to protect the calves and monitor their health.
“We keep them from getting stepped on and we want to know the calves are eating and getting exactly what they need to grow,” Gilbert told a crowd gathered around the calf hutch.
Gilbert is a first-generation farmer in partnership with the Morgan family at Scipio Springs Farm in Union Springs, NY. The farm was established 12 years ago and has one location with 800 cows and one with 600 cows.
He volunteered to talk with the public at the first Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the Fair last year and provided six of 36 expectant cows at the Fair this year.
“It is impractical to bring the public to the farm to see calves born. Here at the Fair the public can much more easily talk to farmers and hear the straightforward truth to the questions they have,” Gilbert said.
“The public wants to know where their food comes from and are looking for answers about agriculture. Who better to ask than the honest, hard-working people who live it day-in and day-out and take pride in what we do? The impressions the public receives here can have a long-lasting impact.”
Gilbert said he noticed last year that one family who spent hours waiting for a birth in the Center were telling visitors who came in later in the day what they have learned by being there, and, Gilbert noted, “They were giving accurate answers.”