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Jean-Claude Vézina Par Jean-Claude Vézina

Mercredi, 14 août 2013

Farming, agriculture, equipment and games

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Hear ye! Hear ye! The Cookshire Agricultural Fair is back in force this August 15 to 18! Our fair is one of the oldest in Canada. It began in 1845. Like others, it filled a need to promote developments in farming and agricultural techniques and tools, as well as being a festive occasion.

The harsh climate forced the first settlers to develop new characteristics in animals and plants in order to shorten the production time and also improve their quality. A few examples are Chanteclerc chickens and Canadian cattle and horses.
A fair offers an opportunity for producers and the public to meet each other. Agriculture and farming are demystified. It is an excellent occasion for farmers to create commercial ties, and to compare the genetic improvement of animals and plants. And it is also a chance for a family outing. And then, in the past, for men, it meant a chance for a peep into certain tents that offered certain shows...

The life of the population was organized around farming crops and raising livestock in order to feed themselves. In French-Canada, this history began with Louis Hébert who, starting in 1617, practiced agriculture. Noël Landry, retired farmer, has long experience in the vast domain of agriculture, and has witnessed its evolution. He tells about several steps the past decades have seen. But first, he distinguishes genetic improvement from the genetic manipulations practiced by a few multinational corporations who modify genes and patent living organisms.

In the past, few could take the time for selective breeding in order to improve genetics. "Religious orders and gentlemen farmers, growing out of a long tradition in the domain, and several knowledgeable Francophone agricultural producers committed themselves to this philanthropic work," he said, speaking in French.

Landry said that in 1949 the first artificial inseminations were performed with fresh semen obtained from, for example, Saint-Hyacinthe. It had to be used the same day. In 1952, the technique of freezing sperm was mastered, permitting it to be used by livestock farmers over wide territories. This contributed to the development of livestock farming based on genomics, the science of improving genetics.

In the 1950s, the fair had a mainly local dimension. The prizewinners in Cookshire, if they wished, had access to regional fairs, such as the Sherbrooke Expo, which for many years was the administrative centre of the Eastern Townships. The winners there could then go on to Quebec City. Still today, this route opens the way to the Canadian National Exposition in Toronto, where beef cattle, calves, heifers, milk cows, pigs, sheep and goats, poultry, rabbits and others have access to the world. Horses, those animals who accompanied farmers for the decades between the old era of oxen and the new one of tractors, hold an important place in this event. Many are the riders who mount ponies and large horses. The cart drivers love to parade them harnessed in pairs, or even in a team of eight.

In the same vein, the Cookshire Fair gardeners and horticulturists, whether professionals or amateurs, exhibit their most beautiful productions. You can find breads, pies, cakes and other treats that show off the talents of chefs. Compositions of bouquets, floral arrangements, artwork by children, and countless other art or artisanal objects are displayed for the pleasure of the public.

The commercial aspect is never neglected. Numerous businesses propose tools that represent cutting-edge technology. Farmers are attracted to their kiosks, looking to find equipment that will make their work easier. And the pleasures of the merry-go-round, the cotton candy, apples glazed with cinnamon, steamed hotdogs...

Year in year out, come hell or high water, the stables are full of animals. Dozens of livestock farmers present their best animals. You can walk down the aisles and admire them. Depending on the schedule, you can see the judges in action. On average, ten thousand visitors enter the gate for one activity or another. Truck races and shows round out the program of activities.

The Cookshire Agricultural Fair - a whole world unto itself!

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