For Immediate Release - June 30, 2009

Patrick Administration Encourages Residents to Visit Local Agricultural Fairs for Summer Fun

Massachusetts offers 45 agricultural fairs throughout the summer and fall

BOSTON - With more than two million visitors annually, agricultural fairs are one of the most visited entertainment and recreational venues in Massachusetts. In the spirit of staying local this summer, the Patrick Administration encourages Massachusetts residents to consider visiting some of the nearly 45 agricultural fairs scheduled throughout the summer and fall from the Berkshires to Cape Cod.

"We are fortunate to have so many great agri-tourism destination points throughout our state, including our agricultural fairs. Here, families can experience the rich diversity of our agricultural landscape and gain a life-long appreciation for the importance of locally grown food," said Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott Soares. "Local agri-tourism is a carbon footprint-friendly way to enjoy and appreciate our farming heritage as well as help maintain a vibrant agricultural community for future generations to come."

From major county-wide fairs to youth and community events, agricultural fairs showcase the Massachusetts agricultural system and its relationship to the state's economy, environment, health, and quality of life. Agricultural fairs are also a way to learn about and support local agriculture. The Commonwealth's agricultural fairs feature highlights such as exhibits, livestock competitions and showings, farm-fresh food, local crafts, and local bands. Some fairs also have fireworks displays, tractor rides, demolition derbies and chain saw carving contests.

To kick-off the fair season, DAR staff and fair representatives will distributed the agency's 2009 Agricultural Fairs brochure at South Station in Boston on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. To order a copy of the brochure and for an online listing of fairs statewide, click here

DAR Commissioner Soares and Assistant Commissioner Nathan L'Etoile will visit many agricultural fairs in the state to celebrate Massachusetts farming and the state's place in agricultural fair history.

Some of the first agricultural fairs and horticultural societies in the United States were developed in the Commonwealth. In the fall of 1807, Elkanah Watson, the father of American agricultural fairs, bought two Merino sheep and displayed them under an elm tree in Pittsfield's public square. Seven years later, Pittsfield held the first agricultural fair in the United States. Other farmers began to showcase their livestock and other offerings to audiences and the agricultural fair was born.

Agricultural tourism is a way for families looking for interesting summer vacations and day-trips to support Bay State farmers at the same time. Massachusetts is home to over 300 agricultural attractions open to the public, including farm tours, farm bed & breakfast accommodations, hayrides, petting zoos, workshops, picnic areas, and more. Both agricultural fairs and agri-tourism support local agriculture through direct sales. With $42 million in direct sales of farm products to consumers, Massachusetts ranks first in New England in total value of direct sales. Nationwide, the Bay State ranks ninth in total value of direct sales, and second in the value of direct market sales per farm at $ 25,356 per farm.

For listings of other agri-tourism attractions, click here. Massachusetts Agriculture Tourism maps (including locations of state parks and recreational facilities) and Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Directory brochures are also available by contacting:

MA Department of Agricultural Resources,
251 Causeway St., Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 626-1742

Last August, as part of the Patrick Administration's commitment to Massachusetts farmers and farmlands, the Commonwealth devoted $67.7 million to preserve agricultural lands through the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program. The funds come from the $1.7 billion Energy and Environment Bond Bill passed in 2008.

The DAR mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate, and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production.