The annual tour that connected thousands of Scott County suburbanites to their counterparts on farms won’t take place this year. But a new event has sprung up promising to be much more convenient and almost as real.
An Autumn Fare is being held at the county fairgrounds early next month, bringing farmers, their livestock and produce to a single place.
“Instead of visiting three farms you can visit 20 in a single barn and enjoy a wonderful breakfast and lunch created from food grown right here in the county,” said Lori Pint, a member of the fair board and a key organizer.
The goal of the Sept. 7 event is similar to a conventional county fair, she said, “but instead of a carnival and a demolition derby, this is more like agri-tourism: ‘aisles of farms,’ we say, and not just animals but family photos telling the story of that farm, some of them over a century or more — which directions are they going right now?”
Scott County is rare in having a real old-fashioned county fairgrounds within minutes of the suburbs, said Brad Woodward, fair manager, and it ought to take advantage of that at a time when there’s growing interest in local food production.
“We’re trying to diversify a bit and give the community other options, other times and reasons to come out and enjoy the fairgrounds,” he said.
Tour lasted 14 years
The City to Country Tour lasted 14 years, under the leadership of University of Minnesota extension educator Laura Kieser. But she resigned this spring to take another job, and a replacement wasn’t named in time to oversee the event.
Scott County is full of long family histories such as those of the Pints, who homesteaded their property in the southwest part of the county beginning in 1862.
In some ways, the world of urban chickens and community gardens that’s returning these days represents a circling back, Pint said.
“In my perfect world, everyone would have a couple of acres, half a dozen chickens, two sheep, and feed themselves and know where their food came from.”
But the Autumn Fare also represents a chance to meet folks who make farming more of a business, she said, whether it’s raising alpacas for the fiber or produce to be brought to restaurants in Minneapolis, as is the case with Ann Houghton.
Houghton is overseeing what’s being billed as a “Farmer’s Breakfast, highlighting the county’s agricultural abundance.”
From 8 to 10 a.m. Sept. 7, there’s a locally sourced meal consisting of a gourmet breakfast sandwich, breakfast potatoes, yogurt parfait, fruit, coffee and cider.
It’s a chance for people to “sample the tasty and healthy foods that are produced or sourced here,” said Houghton, who raises and sells vegetables, fruit and lamb.
Along with food, there’s a stress on artists — and on fiber. “I raise sheep,” Pint said, “and there are a lot of fiber people in my knitting group — a lot of people make their own yarn and knit and weave. Fiber goes along with small livestock: sheep, goats, alpacas.”
If the intent is to avoid — quite literally — a carnival atmosphere, there will be one exception: The antique Ferris wheel purchased for the fair and restored at the expense of construction magnate Dick Ames will operate, and Ames has promised to bring horses he’s know for, such as Arabians.
Pint will bring Doolittle, her miniature horse, which is the event’s official mascot.
The Autumn Fare is partly a fundraiser for the county’s 4-H program and for the fair group, the Scott County Agriculture Society, and the Local Harvest Alliance, which promotes local food production and sometimes battles local government’s expansionist dreams onto productive farmland.
Tickets for the Farmer’s Breakfast are $10 in advance or $13 at the door for adults, and $7 in advance or $10 at the door for children ages 3 to 11.
A detailed schedule was to be online this week. The event’s website is the same as the county fair’s: http://scottcountyfair.com/ . The fairgrounds are at 7151 190th St. W. in Jordan, and the entire event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 7.