In its 168th year, farming still the center of the New York State Fair


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WKTV) - The New York State Fair may offer great entertainment, great rides, and great food, but even that food has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is farmers, who've been a fixture at the fair since its beginning over 160 years ago.

In 1841, the New York State Legislature appropriated $8,000 for what was to be the promotion of agriculture and household manufacturers in the state, through an annual fair. In those early years, wandering the fairgrounds may lead you to find such lectures and discussions as "selection of the Dairy Cow" or "winter Feeding of Sheep."

Interest at the Fair centered primarily on agriculture, its tools and its products - something that still hold true to this day, for those young and old. More than 160 years later, forget Facebook - for many farm families, the fair still proves to be a great social networking tool.

"Just coming and usually meet at least two or three new people coming to the fair," said Kristen Gallagher, 12, of Waterville, and a member of Oneida County 4H for more than 6 years. "And you just show off your cow and have fun."

16 year-old Zach Taylor's been with his family's T-Farms in Bouckville his whole life. That means he's been coming to the fair just as long, to show off the family's prized dairy cows.

It's not just bragging rights either. While it's certainly educational for those looking to see and learn about farm animals, the fair serves as a promotional tool for many farms peddling their products.

"If we do good with a cow, it's worth lots of money. Showing them off for like, sales," Taylor said. "You have a good cow, we could sell one for $30,000."

Doug Wolfe has been coming to the fair for more than 30 years to show off his cattle and dairy cows from Richfield Springs. He, like many other farmers who attend the fair, use it as a sales too.

But an added benefit?

Being able to educate others as to what it takes to get their milk onto the breakfast table.

"The biggest benefit of coming here is the general public being able to see where milk comes from," Wolfe said. "And in a lot of cases, it's their only chance to see the animals up close...and see what's in the carton they buy at the store. It comes from the cow and the cows from the start."

So the next time you come to the New York State Fair, which is open until September 7, hop off the ferris wheel and hop on by to see the many area farmers and animals that get your dinner off the field and onto your plate.

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