Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Farmers convention

In the 1800s, when farming dominated local industry, this was the season of the agricultural fair.

The Ridgefield Fair and Cattle Show was a typical 19th Century fair, with exhibits of products, produce and livestock, plus awards. The fair offered 31 categories for ribbons, ranging from crops, grains, vegetables, and fruit, to cakes, wines, musical instruments, fine arts, and “ladies' industrials.”

Agricultural markets were booming with new machines, tools and seed varieties in the 19th Century, and farmers got to see the latest products and hear lectures on improved farming methods. They could also chat with a wider group of farmers, discussing and critiquing modern-day advances as well as time-tested techniques.

At a fair, “they saw, gathered up in a small compass, what was going on in the farmer’s world, and this within a single day or two,” said an 1860s book on farming. “Thus, they accumulated a fund of knowledge which they could not have acquired had they remained at home.”

Thus, old-time country fairs were a time to learn as well as play -- the precursor of the modern convention.

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