Mercer Co. Fair draws community together
HOPEWELL — The record hot weather was broken slightly by a high overcast on Saturday, July 29, at the Howell Living History Farm as the Mercer County 4-H Fair kicked off.
Small children and small goats queued up around the show tent while other 4-Hers set up their project exhibits.
Visitors spent plenty of time viewing the art and crafts show not only because the building is air conditioned, but also because of the talent of kids.
While the fair is fun for kids, the Community Exhibitors tent was the scene of serious business.
Catholic Relief Services from the Diocese of Trenton set up a table at the fair for the first time. Carol Olivieri and Elrid Trulove were talking up the organization’s partnerships with U.S. agricultural programs: Food for Peace, Food for Progress, McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Farmer-to-Farmer.
Olivieri said the organization is concerned with all that family farmers need to cope with and tries to support them in any way they can.
Working with international organizations give CRS an insight into what farmers have to deal with in conflict zones and in countries where many families can barely survive. She said it is an important mission to provide assistance to these farmers, helping them grow appropriate crops for their soil and climate. She pointed out 1% of the US Farm Bill supports international farming and CRS has been participating in Food for Peace for 65 years.
Olivieri and Truelove were telling the story of CRS’s work with farmers to the people who attended the fair.
A staple of the fair is the New Jersey Outdoor Equity Alliance.
Renata Barnes, Director of Programs and Community Engagement of OEA, explained the alliance is open and welcome to everybody, especially people on the periphery of society, those who are disproportionately affected by events such as hurricanes, floods and drought.
“With everybody at the table we can show them that nature is for everyone, we can talk about food systems,” she said.
OEA has 20 interns both girls and boys, representing Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, East Asia. The board is made up of public officials, private citizens, vocational farmers, many people who have a stake in the outdoors and in farming.
Barnes is hopeful the next farm bill will benefit small farmers but she is also concentrating on education. “People need to understand where food comes from,” she said. She emphasizes the importance of local, sustainable agriculture and of reaching the people who live in food deserts.
Another regular at the fair is Daniel Labidow, aka The Hebrew Hammer or The Blacksmith of Trenton. He has a regular gig at the Howell Living History Farm and is a popular stop for fair visitors.