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Agriculture not all doom and gloom, fair-goers learn (10 photos)

Oro World's Fair celebrates rural roots; 'We want them to know more about agriculture'

A fall fair is not all fun and play — it’s also a place for getting back to the rural life.

That’s what exhibitor Andrea Crawford hopes fair goers will get out of the Oro World’s Fair, which ends today at 5 p.m.

The Oro-Station resident was at the 166th annual event showing off cows reared at her family farm.

“It’s not all dirt and manure with these cows,” said Crawford, bathing one of the calves before it was shown. “We get a bad name sometimes that our animals are treated badly.

“It’s not all doom and gloom that’s in the news,” she added.

Coming down to the fair gives people a chance to get the facts about farming , agriculture and animal rearing as it is done under strict rules and conditions approved by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

“Our animals are treated with respect,” said Crawford. “They’re our livelihood, so if they’re unhappy, they don’t produce. That’s a downside for us.”

During conversations at fairs, she said, she’s been able to educate people about how animals are treated and kept at farms.

“They all have names, numbers and individual stalls,” said Crawford. “We keep records of all our cows. We don’t have a lot of pasture, but they’re outside every day.”

Basically, she said, the cows have shade, sun, cement (which they come onto for feeding), and sod to use.

Farming or animal rearing isn’t just an educational experience for people who come to the fairs, or visit their farm, said Crawford, but it’s also a lifestyle that teaches kids valuable life skills and lessons.

“Kids learn responsibility,” she said, adding that her children were at the fair to help out in showing the cows. “My kids take every other day to help out in the barn, feeding the babies and letting the cows out in the yard.”

Aside from that, said Crawford, the kids learn empathy.

“If the cow or calf gets sick, the kids are concerned and worried,” she said. “If a cow is sick and not able to get better, we all cry.

“They’re like big pets to us,” said Crawford.

Her 12-year-old daughter Sydney likes to come out to fairs to get the ribbons, but she also likes to snuggle with the cows when they’re lying on the ground.

She gets to enjoy farm life, but she said she tells friends who don’t live on farms that they’re missing out.

Others at the fair Saturday had been coming to the annual event since they were kids showing a different kind of animal: dogs.

“I did the dog show as a kid,” said Lindsay Walker, whose seven-year-old son, Felix Heittola, has now taken up the mantle. “It’s just family tradition that we do every year. I hope my kids start their own with their kids.”

Heittola, who showed one of their family dogs, Levi, at the dog show, was proud to display the ribbon the dog got for being the largest dog in the show.

Winning the competitions is one part of the fair that the seven-year-old Oro-Station resident likes, but it’s the derby that takes top vote.

“I like the crash and derby,” he said. “I don’t like the tractor pulls; it’s just a tractor pulling heavy stuff.”

Walker said the fair has fewer kids activities with the midway being missing two years in a row.

“That’s what brings in the cotton candy and the popcorn,” she said, adding that’s one feature she always enjoyed when she came to the fair as a kid.

Growing up in a rural setting, Walker said, she knows and appreciates what it teaches kids.

“It’s a totally different upbringing, because you have chores,” she said. “A child in Barrie may not have to muck the stalls, pick vegetables from the garden or weed it.

“When I was a kid, I was told to go do chores if I wanted to go for a swim,” Walker added.

All of that and more is what the fair hopes to teach people who visit the fair, said Lynn Fisher, secretary, Oro Agricultural Society.

“I think we want them to know more about agriculture, where their food comes from and be proud of it,” she said.

Farming isn’t as big an industry as it used to be in Oro-Medonte, said Fisher, but the fair helps preserve the heritage and continues education from the past into the future.

On Friday, when the fair kicked off, she said about 4,500 people, including school kids, came through the grounds.

“The attendance has been creeping up every year,” said Fisher, adding the blacksmith, the derby and various shows are the main pull around the fair. “There’s something for everyone, and several people say there’s too much to do.”

That’s always a good problem to have, she said, adding that they have a lot of attractions for seniors in the area, too.

The car show at one end of the fair was evidence to that. It featured cars from various decades that had been refurbished into rat rods and hot rods.

“I got this car about 36 years ago,” said Paul Miller, of Barrie, standing next to his bright yellow ’48 Thames English car.

“A friend of mine had this vehicle, and he started to turn it into a hot rod,” he said. “Being too tall, he realized he couldn’t fit into it, so I bought it from him and started over.”

For the next decade, Miller divided his time between, work, fixing the car and taking his kids to their skating lessons.

“It’s just a hobby,” he said. “My dad had a service station in Barrie. It was a BP station, and this logo has the original colours of BP.”

The fair featured exhibits, a magic show, a mini tractor pull, horse shows, an inflatable bouncy park and a derby, which starts at 3 p.m. and wraps up the fair at 5 p.m.