Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Lifestyles

October 4, 2013

State Fair of Virginia returns to its ag roots

DOSWELL, Va. — Here’s a piece of agricultural trivia to chew on: How many cows does it take to keep the NFL stocked with footballs for an entire season?

You can find the answer to that head-scratcher at the State Fair of Virginia, which continues its 10-day run at the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County through Sunday.

In its first year of being fully owned and operated by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the state fair has a distinctly farm feel with more of an emphasis on Virginia’s agriculture industry than in the past.

Still pondering the NFL/cow connection? The answer is 3,000, according to tour guides with Moo U, a Texas-based organization providing educational tours of agriculture exhibits.

Fairgoers also can find out where and how to cut their Christmas trees this year.

Besides new rides and food vendors, additions to this year’s fair include an active plot of commercial field crops such as cotton, sorghum, peanuts, corn, soybeans and tobacco.

There is a garden plot with tomatoes, lettuce, Swiss chard and bok choy planted by members of the Caroline High School Future Farmers of America.

“Agriculture is the Farm Bureau’s DNA,” said Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the Goochland County-based organization. In addition to advocating for its farm member and farm interests, the trade organization also owns insurance businesses.

“Our mission is to educate people about agriculture,” Hicks said. “That is the primary reason we got into it (the fair). It is a perfect addition for our organization, and this gives us an opportunity to showcase agriculture and tell consumers about its importance and why things are done the way they are done.”

Agriculture and forestry are the state’s largest industries, producing more than $70 billion in economic activity a year.

The Farm Bureau assumed full ownership of the state fair in March. It had been sharing ownership with Tennessee-based Universal Fairs LLC since July 2012.

“We were getting our feet wet last year, but this year we have been able to really grow it,” Hicks said.

The Farm Bureau has not yet released attendance figures for the fair, but attendance has been up this year compared with last year, Hicks said. Mild, clear weather this week has really helped, he said.

Other new agriculture-focused additions include a farmer’s market where visitors can buy locally produced farm products, such as pumpkins and gourds. The market includes not just produce but also goat’s milk soaps and lotions such as those being sold Thursday by Amelia Soap and Herb Co., and Mary Murphy of Wandering Cow Farm in Charles City.

Murphy’s homemade soaps include bars of “beer soap” with ingredients from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond.

Farm organizations also have booths at the fair’s Meadow Pavilion to promote their products and encourage visitors to buy Virginia-grown and locally produced farm goods. Those groups include the Virginia Peanut Growers Association, The Virginia Beef Industry Council, the Richmond Beekeepers Association and The Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association.

“We’re very interested in promoting our real, fresh Christmas trees, as opposed to the artificial ones,” said Greg Lemmer, president of the association.

“Given the timing of the fair in October and the holiday season around the corner, it is a good time to raise visibility of our product,” said Lemmer, who is also associate director of Boys’ Home Inc., a children’s home in Covington that owns an 80-acre Christmas tree farm.

About 10,000 schoolchildren from around Virginia are expected to take the Moo U educational tours during the duration of the fair.

They will learn how many eggs a chicken lays in a week, why cows chew their cuds and how much milk a dairy cow produces in a day.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com

 

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