DOBSON — The Celebrating Agriculture event was held for the final time Saturday afternoon, ending a 13-year run, but there were no looks of sadness to be found.
Instead, folks of all ages flocked to Fisher River Park just outside Dobson to enjoy a bountiful harvest of fun and knowledge all based around Surry County’s still-rich farming industry.
The event included a petting zoo where kids could get up close and personal with animals such as horses, cattle, goats and chickens; hayrides; kiddie rides, including one that allowed participants to negotiate a hay bale maze; and blacksmithing demonstrations.
Crowds additionally were drawn to displays of tractors and other farming equipment, some massive in scale; and educational and other exhibits by groups such as the Surry Beekeepers Association and Surry County Cooperative Extension, the longtime sponsor of the festival.
The “Milking Ms. Daisy” dairy cow exhibit that teaches children where milk comes from also made its annual appearance.
Live bluegrass music was performed from a park stage and a variety of food was available for purchase, including ribeye steaks and hamburgers prepared by the Surry Cattlemen’s Association.
Everyone seemed to be making the most of the occasion — any dark clouds hanging over the proceedings were not noticeable — despite the annual event coming to an end for reasons including scheduling conflicts with other events this time of year.
“We’ve been doing this since 2006,” county Extension Director Bryan Cave said. While enjoying a break from piloting a tractor for the kiddie ride, he agreed that Celebrating Agriculture has enjoyed a good run.
The Dobson event is to be absorbed into Mayberry Farm Fest, held annually in Mount Airy.
Those attending Saturday’s festival seemed thankful for the chance to experience it one last time.
“We come every year,” said Debbie Hall of Mount Airy, who was there with a family of seven, including four kids and three adults.
Hall said the youngsters particularly enjoyed the petting zoo animals, the hayride and the opportunity to shuck corn.
She also focused on an aspect at the heart of the event: exposing the younger generation to a culture they might not learn about otherwise.
“It just lets the kids experience farm life that we don’t have,” Hall said of those who live in town.
“And it’s free.”
Farm economy strong
While the Celebrating Agriculture festival has headed to the big barn in the sky, the industry it celebrates remains strong, according to statistics provided by Cave, the extension director:
• Gross farming income in Surry County was around $302 million during 2017.
Cave said that money turns over three to four times in the local economy, due to how agriculture affects other segments.
“It makes up about 13 percent of the county economy,” he said.
• Surry has 1,258 farms, which average about 102 acres in size.
• Its agricultural production ranks 16th among the 100 counties in North Carolina.
“The bad part is the average age is about 60,” Cave said of local farmers.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.