A List of Ontario Fairs and Festivals
And A Brief History of the Agricultural Fair
So many sights and sounds!
Music, games and laughter. Horses, cows, heavy machinery… And so much more.
Playing and dancing, and eating top notch food.
Kids being kids... So many happy people!
It’s the Agricultural Fair!
And what is that you're smelling? Fresh-baked pies and tarts... some BBQ maybe... definitely maple syrup, and a little bit of the farm underneath it all. There are layers to the Ontario agricultural fair experience.
And stock-still, sunny days are best, of course, but any day will do just fine. The agricultural fair is a summer and autumn stalwart in many parts of the world, and Ontario fairs and festivals are certainly no exception.
We have compiled a list of Ontario fairs near the bottom of this page. It’s based on the OAAS listings, but we’re focused mainly on the Frontenacs, the Tay Valley and the Ottawa Valley... So if you're looking for agricultural fairs near Ottawa, or near Kingston or Cornwall: you can scroll down there anytime.
But, for those it may interest, we would love to serve up a little bit of agricultural history. It won't take long, and you may even enjoy it.
The first Canadian agriculture exhibitions actually happened on the East coast, in Nova Scotia. Here in Ontario, however, the first official agricultural fairs date back to the late eighteenth century, with the formation of the Agricultural Society of Upper Canada, based in Niagara on the Lake, in 1792.
And- from those early Ontario forts- the agricultural fair concept continued to spread westward with the settlers.
What’s that, you say? Not far back enough in time? Okie dokie then...
A Brief, Ancient History of the Agricultural Fair
Fact: we have been eating grains for almost 25,000 years.
Another fact: we've been domesticating certain preferred animals and grains for almost 15,000 years.
Isn't that amazing?!
Final bonus fact: This shift toward the domestication of animals and agriculture- 12,000 to 15,000 years ago- was such a monumental step forward for humanity that we have given it a fancy label: "[The Neolithic Revolution]".
And it really was huge. We were suddenly able to stop hunting and gathering... The early settlements turned into cities, which turned into those great civilizations at which we still marvel to this day.
Before we offer our own very basic nutshell of historical farming, let us offer a few reading suggestions for those of you looking for a more extensive knowledge base. The links below will lead you to Amazon, where we personally do a lot of our online shopping.
For a heavier, more academic profile of humanity's farming feats, read [The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory]. And for a simpler, more entertaining look at the history of food, check out either: [An Edible History of Humanity] and [Food in History].
But Back to Our Neolithic Jog Through Time...
From the Ancient Chinese to the Sumerians, to Ancient Egypt, and the Indian Subcontinent... We have been agricultural farmers for a very long time.
These civilizations were each fortunate enough to have a nearby water source- and the occasional strokes of engineering ingenuity- which enabled them to produce enough grains and legumes to build and support their growing populations. The Sumerians had the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers... China had the Pearl River and others... The Egyptians had the Nile... And so on, and so forth.
And it's safe to say that the agricultural fair, in some form or another, has been around for about as long as we've been writing these things down. It would have gotten rolling organically, we have fun imagining...
[Hey, that's nifty! Can you show me how to do it?
Then I'll show you the cream of my crop, if you show me yours. BQ]
Our methods have evolved alongside our civilizations too, of course, and we've even developed some new and interesting crops and breeds over the last few millenia... But the results of our farming efforts- much like our conversation skills- really haven't changed all that much.
Think about it: would a potato or a grain of rice- or even an egg or a side of beef- have looked any different back in 5,000 BC?
To see a detailed table of plant domestication dates and times, check out [THIS PAGE]. It is an in-depth analysis at ThoughtCo- an online think tank, of sorts. They have done the same level of analysis with animal domestication dates and times too, [RIGHT HERE]. Check them both out if you're interested.
So when did we get really good at this whole farming thing then?
From Ancient Old McDonald
to our 21st Century Ontario Fairs
When did the subject of agriculture become a community initiative worthy of exhibition, advocacy and competition?
Or a more appropriate question might be: When did we first start having fun as farmers?
When did we start having leisurely conversations about it, and having such a swell time that we began congregating in large groups to do just that?
The British are Coming... To the Agricultural Fair!
The British, more than any other civilization in history, revolutionized the way we grow our food! Hands down... no question.
Between the 16th century and the mid-19th century, Britain made many small and large strides towards increasing agricultural productivity and output. But it’s the 18th century that really stands out as a wellspring period of innovation and improvement.
It could be said to have all started with Jethro Tull's simple horse-drawn seed drill of 1701, which mechanized the planting of seeds at a proper depth, but it really is difficult to pinpoint one single achievement as a catalyst during a period of such rapid and widespread momentum.
Nonetheless, the advancements of the following century's British Agricultural Revolution are, somewhat ironically, what made the Industrial Revolution possible. Between the years 1700 and 1801, the population of England increased almost 70%.
This period saw the steady improvement of plough technology, a better understanding of soil nutrition and the implementation of a [four-field crop rotation], the investigation and improvement of fertilizers, the invention of the threshing machine... And so much more!
Coincidence? We think not...
Nor is it a coincidence that agriculture exhibitions became a popular social institution around the same time. In order to showcase their countless discoveries and achievements, the British managed to cross the two existing models of the trade show and the carnival to give birth to the agricultural fair as we know it today.
And so here we are...
Regaling At Our Own Rural Ontario Fairs and Festivals
Did that seem like a lot of reading?
It did actually feel like a substantial amount of writing, to be frank... But we only barely scratched the surface. There is a whole world of agricultural history out there. Seriously, it was recently accredited as an academic discipline.
So if you feel cheated out of valuable knowledge, go back up to our book suggestions and get one of them. Or all of them... You could get your doctorate, and travel to rural communities far and wide as the world's preeminent Agricultural Historian!
But You're Here for a List of Ontario Fairs and Festivals, Right?
It may have been a long road, spanning many continents and millennia...
But we're here: back in the Ontario country, sippin' on sweet tea and thinking about last year's [Maberly Fair], and the one upcoming.
Or maybe that's not enough!
Maybe- after that historical knowledge injection- you can feel the country fair spirit coursing through your veins...
And you are indeed going to every last one of the agricultural fairs near Ottawa... Every agriculture exhibition in Eastern Ontario!
But you need all the information in one convenient place.
Alas, that is why we’re here talking to you. That is why you made it this far down the page, right? And we shall not disappoint!
Without further ado (because there’s always so much ado up there),
here is our current list of Ontario Fairs and Festivals:
[link to news page]