Ag & Markets looks to boost county fairs statewide

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds draws about 25,000 to 30,000 people for its six-day run in late July each year. The food vendors and amusement rides are a popular part of the fair.

Posted 30 November 2022 at 3:18 pm

Press Release, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

ALBANY – New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced that the state will convene a series of roundtable discussions with county fair representatives from across New York to further strengthen these community events.

Stakeholders will meet twice annually, in the spring and fall, with the initial dates to be chosen at the annual meeting of the New York State Association of Agricultural Fairs (NYSAAF) in January 2023.

Representatives from NYSAAF and additional stakeholders will be invited to participate in the discussions, which will generate ideas to further the fairs’ growth. This announcement comes as a part of Governor Hochul’s commitment to evaluating ways to increase the marketing and promotion of county fairs, as well as opportunities to improve youth and agricultural programming initiatives at all fairs statewide.

“County fairs are the foundation of agricultural education and tradition for families across New York State,” said Commissioner Ball. “The more we can work together to grow these important cultural and educational touchstones, the better off our state will be. These roundtable discussions will be a great opportunity to continue coordinating and strengthening our fairs’ agricultural initiatives statewide.”

Participants will be the NYSAAF’s Board of Directors, which includes managers from county fairs across New York State of all sizes, as well as vendor representatives and members of agricultural groups that have experience and insight into the operation of exhibits at fairs.

Topics for the first roundtable discussion will include:

  • how to enhance fair marketing and promotion through existing programs such as Taste NY and I Love NY, as well as the creation of new programs to increase awareness of fairs statewide;
  • plans for enhancing agricultural competitions at fairs, including ways to encourage county fair winners to participate at the Great New York State Fair; and
  • other initiatives, including capital planning, emergency management, and commissioning an updated economic impact study.

“The NYSAAF Board looks forward to participating in a series of round table discussions,” said NYSAAF President Ed Rossley. “We will continue to promote agriculture at the county and state levels. Open communication is necessary to expand the county fair’s promotion, infrastructure, and financial stability. All these areas are necessary to provide a venue for youth and agricultural programming initiatives in New York State.”

In 2021, Governor Hochul directed a review to assess support, growth, and revitalization opportunities for all fairs in New York. As part of this initiative, the State created a new position, Agricultural Fair Development Director, which was a significant step forward in streamlining the State’s work with county fairs and facilitating increased opportunities for funding and growth.

In addition to the Great New York State Fair, New York is home to more than 50 county and youth fairs that operate from July through the middle of September, with the Long Island Fair closing out the season.

Local fairs provide visitors with family-friendly fun, great music, and delicious food. They also offer a unique opportunity to learn about local agriculture, including where our food comes from, and how it is grown, harvested, and marketed to the public. According to a 2013 economic impact study, the State’s fairs generate $6 million in economic activity and over 4,000 jobs in New York each year.

Kaitlin Bennett, left, gets ready for the dairy show on July 27, 2022 with other 4-Hers. Zack Welker, one of the dairy leaders at the fair, helps to get everyone organized.