I had a chance to visit the California State Fair this week and, as the fair nears the end of another successful run at Cal Expo, I thought I would take a moment to share my thoughts about its meaning and the various ways it and other fairs connect to our everyday lives.
Fairs are about communities, and that’s a concept that runs throughout the State Fair. Communities of young and future farmers showing animals; communities of artists and photographers proudly showing their work; communities of performers; and California’s counties gathering as a community to share exhibits that tell their unique and diverse stories.
The State Fair Board of Directors and staff honor communities in their own way – with annual activities that precede the fair run, including the State Fair Gala – an event that celebrates California agriculture and raises funds for student scholarships awarded by the non-profit “Friends of the California State Fair.”
During this year’s Gala, the State Fair recognized new members of the Agricultural Heritage Club. Every year, farms, ranches and other agribusinesses are spotlighted for being in California for 100 years or more. It is such an important distinction and a testimony to the resiliency and innovation of agriculture – the financial commitment, environmental stewardship, and community contributions of families who have persevered and thrived for multiple generations. This year, 17 different businesses were honored, from San Diego County to Shasta County, from the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada to Monterey County in the west. Agriculture is everywhere in California. It provides for us in the present, it is our future and, of course, it’s our glorious heritage.
Other awards at the Gala include the Agriculturalist of the Year, who, in 2012, is my good friend and predecessor as secretary at CDFA, A.G. Kawamura. A.G. has cultivated a lifelong passion for farming and ending hunger. As Secretary, he was commited to expanding agricultural education and improving access to nutrition programs and healthy food. I congratulate A.G. for his many achievements throughout his career. He is a wonderful choice for Agriculturalist of the Year.
Food and farming are, of course, essential for all our communities. We are very, very fortunate to be able to celebrate that at the California State Fair and the many terrific fairs throughout the state.