|The FFA Sentinel|
Why do we have state fairs across our country? One of the main reasons that fairs were started was to promote the agricultural industry of the state or region in which the fair was established. For example the fair in Southeast Alabama is called the National Peanut Festival, because of the importance of the peanut to the region. Farmers, 4-H members, FCCLA members, and FFA members come from all over the state to participate in competitive events and exhibit their skills at growing and/or exhibiting their animals or crops.
The reasons for attending fairs have changed a little over the years. Today’s fair is filled with rides, concerts, and various other attractions. The agricultural focus of the fair, though, still hasn’t been compromised. As society progresses, people get further and further away from their farming roots. People still need some “agricultural” education in their lives, however.
The fear of the agricultural community is that people who don’t have any knowledge of the agricultural industry will not be sympathetic to issues that face farmers. Do America’s young people, especially those in larger cities, know the link between farmers and the food their families buy in the grocery store? Will those young people continue to support the American farmer so that we can continue to produce enough food to feed our country’s citizens along with millions of people from other countries?
Agriculture is extremely important to our state and nation. According to the American Farm Bureau’s website, more than 1 in 6 jobs in the United States are associated with agriculture. Even in so-called non-farm states, a substantial portion of jobs are in the food and fiber system, according to researchers at the USDA Economic Research Service.
To measure the importance of agriculture, researchers estimated economic activity required to produce farm products and moved them to products that are ready for consumers. In nearly two-thirds of the states, the food and fiber system accounts for between 15 and 20 percent of the total employment. The trend in food and fiber system employment is toward jobs in transportation, wholesale and retail trade and food service. To find out the role of the food and fiber system in Alabama’s economy, visit: http://www.ers.usda.gov/epubs/pdf/rcat/rcat102/contents.htm#four.
The Alabama FFA did have a presence at this year’s Alabama National Fair. Four chapters from across the state participated in the exhibit competition held annually as part of the fair: Pell City High School, Montevallo High School, Lamar County High School, and Enterprise High School. Also, there were many livestock shows that FFA members participated in by exhibiting livestock.
I happen to be the superintendent for the swine shows at the Alabama National Fair each year. We have showmanship, an FFA show, a junior show, an open show, and a supreme competitor competition for exhibitors to participate in each year.
State fairs have a significant role in our society, so go out and support the fairs in your area each year. If nothing else, take your children and grandchildren through the exhibits and barns so they too can have an appreciation for Alabama agriculture.
Jacob Davis is the Executive Secretary of the Alabama FFA Association.