Non-farmers get education at Royal fair

Farmers feed cities.

I don’t need to tell you that, but it doesn’t hurt to explain it to urban folks.

Farmers Feed Cities (FFC) is an Ontario group out to increase the “understanding of the value that farmers contribute to Ontario’s economic, physical and social health.”

I’m sure you’ve noticed a big push from several quarters to explain agriculture to the eating public, using whatever resources are available, including social media. FFC is one organization doing just that.

Indeed, it seems that much of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto this week is committed to bringing agricultural intelligence to the city.

The fair still has its show rings, beef animals and dairy barns, but a large piece of it — and the show is huge — demonstrates livestock production to amazed urbanites, including a lot of children.

May I add that the fair is well attended. By mid-afternoon Nov. 3 the lineup to get in was likely two city blocks in length, and that was just the ticket holders. The ticket booths also had long lineups.

Among the educational displays was a long wall covered with 332 eggs, each one in its own little holder. The display noted that one hen laid all of those eggs, in varying sizes from pretty small to extra large.

Lethbridge correspondent Barb Glen and I were impressed by the graphic intelligence provided by the display.

Two large plastic cows were going over big with the kids, who could milk them quite easily with their tiny hands. Actual white fluid emerged from the udders when squeezed.

A hog display showed a sow in a gestational crate with her 10 four-day-old piglets crowding around her teats. Of course, everyone thought the baby pigs were adorable, even if the crate is a subject of controversy.

Nearby, older piglets were staggering around another sow, trying to get their legs under them.

There were chickens in glass cages — beautiful, healthy laying hens — and baby chicks in another glass case.

The Royal Winter Fair, now 90 years of age, had its roots in something more farm-based, but today there’s a large and strong element of urban education. Toronto is huge and crazy and mad with traffic and hustle and buzz. Do Torontonians have any understanding of the farm?

If they go to the fair, they do. And that’s all good.

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