“It is a long-standing tradition that helps introduce new ag students to the FFA program and gets them excited about membership and all that entails,” said Maria VanderWoude, Executive Director, New Hampshire FFA. “The fair is the first statewide event of the school year and serves as a great kick-off!”
Nearly 400 of the 500 New Hampshire FFA members from 12 chapters across the state will take part in the 144th annual Deerfield Fair. Vander Woude estimates that the state FFA has been involved in the fair since at least the 1950s.
Each year the New Hampshire FFA holds five Career Development Events (CDEs) at the fair: Tractor Driving, Floral Design, Dairy Judging, Dairy Showing, and Forestry. Vander Woude said the forestry event seems to draw the most spectators — not too surprising since the state does very well in that area at the national level.
While all of the FFA CDE events occur during just one day, one FFA chapter also runs a petting barn throughout the fair. Built in 1976, the barn was run by the Coe-Brown Much-To-Do FFA Chapter until several years ago, when it was taken over by the Dover Chapter. It is also one of the most popular attractions as evidenced by the “clicker counts” the fair conducts, Vander Woude said.
“The petting barn has definitely helped bridge the gap – many of today’s children don’t even know what farm animals look like, but they can see and touch them in the barn,” Vander Woude said. “There are educational displays in the barns and the FFA members interact with the public and teach them about the animals.”
The fair also allows the public to be exposed to other areas of FFA that are not necessarily traditional agriculture. For example, the New Hampshire FFA hosts a horticulture tent where floral designs are displayed throughout the fair. This year the tent will also be home to displays from the FFA chapters to further inform people about FFA in schools around New Hampshire.
“The CDEs are helpful as well, as fair-goers get to see young people participating in agricultural activities like dairy showing and tractor driving,” Vander Woude said. “The CDEs also help get across the idea that agriculture is not just farming… floral design and forestry are important aspects of the industry too.”
The New Hampshire FFA hopes to put their commitment to Deerfield Fair into a concrete fixture on the grounds. For several years now, the volunteer who coordinates the FFA activities at the Deerfield Fair, Dianne Howes, has been working toward getting a barn built on the fairgrounds so that FFA will have a permanent structure to display historical artifacts as well as student projects (such as floral designs). According to Vander Woude, the state FFA recently obtained approval and will be able to move forward with the undertaking.
“We hope to continue educating the public about the importance of agriculture and the value of agricultural education and FFA,” Vander Woude said.