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Summer 2024

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Summer 2024 New York Archives Junior

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Additional Activity: Safe Milk for New York

The County Fair - Educational Fun!

Adapted from Joshua Hauck-Whealton's Article Farm to Fair
by Toni Stevens-Oliver, Fourth Grade Teacher from Pittsford, NY.

As New York State grew, so did the farming industry. Agriculture was the main business of most New Yorkers in 1832, when the New York State Agricultural Society was formed. The society wanted to help farmers. It brought farmers together so that they could share their ideas and experiences, and then work together to improve farming. Farming was important. In the 1800s, New York State was the leader in agriculture.

In 1841, New York State gave money to the county chapters of the Agricultural Society. The money could be used to host county fairs, where cash prizes would be given to the best animals. The hope was that the prizes would encourage farmers in their work and bring them together at the fair to share their techniques. Over time, prizes would be given for best produce, baked goods, jams, pickles, quilts, and more. Contests to show off skills, like hitching and plowing, were held. Farming equipment was on display. Farmers could sell their livestock, produce, and other goods at the fair.

County fairs have grown to include entertainment, like harness racing, tractor pulls, rodeos, rides, and music. Local history has become a part of many fairs.

People demonstrated old fashioned farming and household skills, like milking cows or weaving. Historic farm equipment might be on display. Lots of good food, often featuring local products, is available to enjoy.

Youth are a big part of county fairs! Groups like 4-H and Future Farmers of America teach students many different types of skills related to agriculture. Students in these groups often show their animals and produce at county fairs hoping to win first prize!

While agriculture is no longer the leading industry in New York State, it is still an important part of the state's economy. There are currently over forty county fairs still held in New York State. Is there one near you?

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Did You Know?

  • Steuben County has the oldest continually running county fair in the US. It started in 1819.
  • The New York State Fair was America’s first State Fair, starting in 1841.
  • Dairy products are now the leading agricultural product in New York State.

Learning Activity

Community Connections

  • 4-H New York. 4-H offers clubs and activities that teach about agriculture, as well as STEM, healthy living, and civic engagement. Find your local 4-H at nys4-h.org/.
  • The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown. Experience rural life in the 19th Century. https://www.farmersmuseum.org/.
  • Genesee Country Village & Museum, Mumford. Visit the largest living museum in NYS to experience life in the nineteenth century. gcv.org/
  • Queens County Farm Museum, Queens. Visit one of the longest continuously farmed sites in NYS. queensfarm.org/about.
  • Find a county fair near you! nyfairs.org/fairs_by_name.htm.

Teacher Resources

Teaching Guide

Flip-Flap Book 

T-Shirt Activity

Take a Closer Look

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