As colorful lights and thrilling rides from the Maury County Fair and Exhibition lit the Columbia night sky this past weekend, the fair continued to shine a light on southern Tennessee’s agrarian roots.
Breeding shows, quilting shows, and farm product contests remain central to the County Fair’s 73-year history.
Following some cancellations of indoor events due to COVID-19 in 2020, this year marked the return of competitions for the best homemade treats, the sweetest local honey and the tastiest fresh peppers.
The return of events further marked an opportunity for the people of Columbia and greater Maury County to reflect on the community’s agrarian roots which continue to maintain a deep influence on the community.
Maggie Dunivan, who helps run her family’s dairy farm in the Lincoln County community in Petersburg, won a ribbon at Thursday’s Livestock Show held at the Skillington Livestock Barn in Maury County Park.
“It’s something I’ve been doing since I was three and I’m now 18,” Dunivan told the Daily Herald.
She follows in her father’s footsteps by exhibiting animals raised on the family farm and sharing them with spectators.
“It’s a family tradition and a sense of pride,” said Dunivan. “Three hundred and sixty five days a year, I work with my animals. And being able to come here and show what we do and show it to everyone, it’s just a real sense of pride. I really like being able to show it to everyone, whether they are really young or older. I think it’s a great opportunity for them to see where their food comes from and how it’s processed and to give them a real feel of what Tennessee is all about.
Agriculture in Maury County
The farming industry in Maury County as a whole generates an estimated annual revenue of $ 45.5 million.
It is also ranked sixth in the state for livestock production.
The most recent quinquennial census of the United States Department of Agriculture, conducted in 2017, indicated that Maury County is home to 1,583 farms producing mainly grains, oilseeds, dry beans and dry peas generating $ 22 million in income.
Livestock, poultry and other animal products led the way with annual sales of $ 23 million.
The report states that around 35% of all farmland in the county is used as cropland, while 37% is used as pasture and 24% is considered woodland.
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It also showed that 76, or 5% of the county’s more than 1,500 farms generated sales of $ 100,000 or more, while 715, or 45%, reported sales of less than $ 2,500.
Federal data indicates that Maury County is no different from the rest of the country, which continues to see the decline of profitable small family farms.
Maintain a tradition
Chad Collins was invited to the fair to showcase breeding techniques with his team of border collies.
Collins operates the Collins Stockdogs service in the Overton County community of Monroe, offering demonstrations, clinics, lessons and training dogs for cattle work and obedience.
It is backed by the Purina brand of dog food.
With the lights of the fairground entertainment behind his back, Collins led a herd of sheep through the fair grounds to their enclosure after a day of protests.
“I think it’s kind of dying art,” Collins said. “It gives children and people the opportunity to see this, which they wouldn’t do otherwise.”
The Columbia Area Beekeepers Association returned to a booth inside one of the fair’s buildings after being unable to participate due to last year’s restriction on holding indoor gatherings.
“People don’t realize it, but our bees get their nectar from many different sources, so there are a lot of different people contributing to what we’re doing and there are a lot of people who benefit from this pollination. Farmers in our area see an advantage with our bees when it comes to the size of their harvest. “
Eric Creel, director of communications for the fair, said the county fair’s board of directors will continue to support traditional events that celebrate the agrarian traditions of the region.
“Agriculture is a big part of the fair and we have one of the best in the area,” Creel said. “We have seen our breeding shows grow every year over the past few years. “
With the participation of each of the Maury County Public School’s Future Farmer’s of America chapters, participating schools are working in unison to raise funds for those affected by the devastating flooding in Waverly, Tenn., Last month .
“That’s it for the local community and the local kids,” Creel said.
The funds raised by the local sections of the FFA will be given to their counterparts in the large community of Waverly.
The National FFA Organization is an American nonprofit organization that aims to develop the potential of its members and help them discover their talent through hands-on experiences for those interested in agriculture and leadership.
Young participants in the program are future chemists, veterinarians, government officials, entrepreneurs, bankers, international business leaders, educators and leading professionals in many career fields.
The organization says there are 735,038 FFA members aged 12 to 21 in 8,817 chapters located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Visitors can help with the effort by donating a dollar to each club’s booth at the fair.
Contact Mike Christen at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.