An Afternoon at the State Fair

Until Labor Day weekend, I had never been to a state fair.  It was a larger, more crowded, more expensive version of many county fairs.  I loved it.

I loved the cute rabbits, some of which were bigger than my cat.

The alpacas and llamas must have gone home early, because we never found them.

I loved the smell of fried food.

I loved the Indian village. I was glad that the Native Americans have a chance to tell their stories and explain their traditional way of life.

I loved the stuff for sale.  We bought pure maple syrup (I’m the high fructose corn variety.)

I loved the crowds.  Jesse did not.

And I loved the cows.

Welcome to the twenty-first century, where a farm boy plops in the hay, reclines against his cow, and plays games on his cell phone.  Everything and nothing has changed.

Jesse likes to say that cows have soulful eyes, although I’m not sure they have all that much going on upstairs.  After visiting the fair, it is evident that the dairy industry plays a huge rule in my state’s economy.  Following a surge in popularity for Greek style yogurt, the farmers and politicians wants to expand the yogurt industry in order to create more jobs.

Like I said, I like cows.  And I like farmers.  The traditional American farmer is fast becoming a legend, but some still exist, and I want them to succeed.  I completed my student teaching internship in a fairly rural school district in Ohio, and many of my students came from farming families.  They had an awesome work ethic.  In an era where most parents raise their kids to feel entitled to the best of everything, the farm kids were respectful and polite.  They wanted to earn their way.

Even the class troublemaker knew about hard work.  When I asked him how he spent his weekend, he told me that he’d chopped wood for his grandfather.  He was incredulous that I didn’t know TSC stood for Tractor Supply Company, which was where his dad worked.

Farmers are the backbone of our country.  Thomas Jefferson said so from the very beginning.

The thing is, cows are bad for the environment.  Raising several hundred cows on one farm creates a lot of waste that can harm water supplies.  My state has regulations to address this, but politicians want to relax these regulations.  Furthermore, cows eat grain.  And using land to grow grain to feed cows–either for beef of dairy–is a waste of resources.

We are a planet with seven billion people and counting.  I am not a gloom and doom person.  I believe that we can and we will find a way to provide a decent standard of living for seven billion people.  But the earth cannot sustain seven billion people eating a diet of beef and dairy.

I know that the federal government provides massive subsidies to agriculture.  I know that agriculture influences the FDA recommendations for a healthy diet.  There is a lot of money and power involved, and that power is not used to do what is best for the average American or for the small farmer.

Surely there is a path forward for American small farmers that can provide citizens with healthy food and provide the farmers with a living.  But relaxing regulations is not the answer.  More cows is not the answer.

I think too much, and I wish sometimes that I could ignore the complexity of every issue.  Thankfully, these thoughts didn’t occur to me while we were at the fair.  After several hours, as the sun grew more intense and the crowd grew thicker, Jesse and I made our way to the exit.  I was wishing I had opted for the fried onion for lunch instead of the falafel, and regretting that I hadn’t saved room for a funnel cake.

But there’s always next year.


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