I spent three very full days this past weekend at the Carp Fair participating in their Agricultural Awareness program. Wearing my Master Gardener hat I talked about growing vegetables the whole weekend. At the end of the fair on Sunday I was much like the pony in the display next to me – we were both a ‘little horse’.
I owe a large debt of gratitude to the generous folk at Puppets Up who loaned me ‘Bob the Broccoli’ for the weekend. He was a big hit with the kids, drawing their attention like a magnet!
The fun started on Friday morning in the Carp Arena as nine classes of Grade 4/5 students listened to presenters at nine different stations ranging from beekeeping, making maple syrup, raising pigs and of course growing vegetables. Each group listened for ten minutes at each station and then moved on to the next station. After interacting with close to 500 kids, parents and teachers over the course of two and a half hours I became convinced that no amount of pay is enough for our teachers! Although to be fair to the kids many of them were genuinely engaged and very interested in what they were hearing (and quite well behaved).
I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of children who have had exposure to growing vegetables and are very much aware of the benefits of growing food in their own garden and who could identify most of the odd-ball vegetables that we brought along with us. Responses to why it is beneficial to grow our own food, even though it involves a lot more work than going to the grocery store, included:
- The food is much fresher
- You can save a lot of money
- There are no pesticides or chemicals
- It is much closer and requires less transportation so there are benefits to the environment
At noon on Friday the fun shifted to the Agricultural Awareness Tent, a large tent with a half dozen displays, a couple of bleachers, my friend the pony, a large stage and a professional sound system. This is one area where the Carp Agricultural Society does not pinch pennies – this is a high priority activity for the fair. Presentations were scheduled for every half hour or so and yours truly was tasked with three presentations each day as well as sitting in a corner with my display and responding to gardeners questions about a myriad of problems that their gardens presented this summer.
I must admit that I was somewhat jealous of the large crowds that were attracted to the antics of Ross the sheepshearer and his sidekick Tom. Large crowds gathered five or six times a day as Ross sheared a sheep in lightning speed while making it look really easy (trust me, it is not at all easy!) I’m guessing that seeing a professional sheepshearer in action is something that most folks don’t see very often.
I gave much of my regular spiel focussed on the benefits of growing our own food, a bit of how-to, and a look at the garden calendar trying to match the requirements of different vegetables with the realities of our climate. I also included some herbs as I had some thyme. Many thanks to Kinburn-area plant breeder Telsing Andrews who came right up and grabbed the microphone when I spotted her in the audience. Responding to a question about saving tomato seeds she gave a succinct and erudite explanation of how to cross-breed two tomato varieties, although I noticed a couple of guys wince when she explained that you started by taking the tomato flower and ripping out the male parts….
All-in-all it was a great experience with lots of discussions with committed experienced gardeners and with new younger gardeners that are keen to start planting! I find it unfortunate that the July timing for the Almonte Fair when the schools are on holidays does not allow for the holding of a similar program here in Almonte. Maybe the great folks at Middleville (and by the way they held a really terrific fair this year) might consider starting something for school kids next year…..