Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Agricultural Fairs: Slow Food, Slow Jackets and Community



One of the interesting offshoots of my discovery process to recreate perfect leather jackets from the 1940s was the joy of connecting to my agricultural community.  For those of us old enough to remember the times before cable television, remote controls and the Internet, the biggest time of the year was the end of summer and fall fairs.  These events would bring farmers and Carneys together to huck stuffed animals, gambling and farm produce in one giant denouement to the summer growing season.  Young men would sneak beers into their coats, and young women would
dress up in spandex tube tops and pocketless jeans and we would all head down to ride the rides.  I remember the shock of seeing the prize winning chickens that looked more eccentric and bizarre than peacocks with all their varietal splendour (more shocked when I visited a chicken farm and saw the weird rats with wings they sell at KFC).  This visit to the fair was the rare connection that city people would have to the "farm".

Now that I work with tanners who help me come up with the perfect leather for my jackets I have learned how important the natural processes of responsible farming, and ethical treatment of animals is and what its impact is on the quality of both food, and the quality of the leather I make.  I now have the privilege to visit and get to know farmers and ranchers who produce fine animals both for work, wool and food.  As you connect with these groups an amazing transformation happens that helps to see a new perspective on what and how you
choose to shop at your local grocery.  Animals become more important and significant that as slices of steak or happy little pets.

I started my journey visiting my friend Mike who works in an Auto plant by day and grows elk as a side business.  His elk are happy, well treated and organic.  Nance and I got the call from Mike who had just slaughtered 3 young elk and he suggested I come up and see him to stock the freezer.  We bought some elk, bison, and wild boar! 
After the journey to see mike and drop in to visit some of my friends..it was off to the fair!  The Erin Agricultural Fair has been operating since 1850.  Really it was an amazing journey back to my childhood going to the Canadian National Exhibition and the horse and live stock shows.  I had an amazing sense of nostalgia.  These fairs are far more relevant today then ever.  While as a child I marvelled at the candy and the rides...today these fairs are a way for farmers, growers, and producers of local products to get together and celebrate their hard work.  It struck

me while meeting and greeting with farmers how out of touch the protesters I had met the week earlier  were with the farming community.  It seems to me that so many people seem so disconnected from what farming, manufacturing, tanning, sewing and the other basics that we are so used to buying from China and beyond.  It becomes very easy to separate and isolate and judge these process' while you are not a part of the socio-economic tapestry that is dependent on farming, ranching and producing for your income.


Country people get to share their experiences and good work from growing huge pumpkins to quilting and jamming.  This connection to quality produce and production of agricultural goods is a catalyst for the local food movement and the beginnings of a European style pride in food production here in Ontario.  It is a one hour drive out of Toronto to go visit your local farmers....and see where my leather and produce come from!











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