We are about to lose a local institution and its custodians are oblivious.
Faced with serious issues, time and again the Directors of the Carp Agricultural Society (hosts of the Annual Carp Fair) fail to fulfill their provincially-mandated responsibility to the community.
The Exhibit Hall, the unique octagonal red building, is the focal point in the community. This City of Ottawa "Heritage Designated" building, erected in 1897, is now in ill repair. In 2013, the year the fair will celebrate its milestone 150th Anniversary, Heritage Canada funding could assist in it’s restoration, a necessity if it is to be preserved for future generations. Using federal government money to assist with the preservation of this building (home of the extremely popular Carp Farmer’s Market) would be a sound fiscal decision. Sadly, however, the board passed a motion to defer the planning of any capital projects for the 150th celebration until 2013, knowing full well that it will be too late to apply for the necessary funding.
In December 2011, the C.A.S. was approached by a reporter from CBC and asked to contribute to a story about the Exhibit Hall, its importance and future in the community. The C.A.S. declined the interview. In an age when family farming and the traditional rural lifestyle are on the decline, and largely misunderstood, the decision to arbitrarily refuse publicity for their work to promote agriculture is highly disturbing.
BUT THAT IS NOT ALL. In November 2011, the Agriculture Division passed a motion that cancelled the Carleton-Russell Holstein Show. This event provides an opportunity for Holstein breeders to showcase their prize-winning herds. I would consider it a vital educational component of the annual fair. Yet, strangely, the very people who have been entrusted by the Province of Ontario to promote agriculture have arrogantly chosen to ignore its importance. And they have done so without regard for the needs or desires of the community they serve.
Recently, members of the Holstein Club met with the Fair Board to discuss the show. In a surprising move, a Director of the Carp Agricultural Society advised the Holstein Club that members of a local family would not be welcome to attend the meeting. Shame! This Carp family (Holstein Canada Premier Breeder) has been exhibiting livestock at their local fair for four generations. Several members of the family have served as Directors/Presidents of the Carp Agricultural Society for close to 100 years. Faithfully, year after year, the entire family have tirelessly prepared their livestock for competitions, sharing their knowledge and love of rural living with the community. The majority of the current directors have none or limited agricultural background. Wouldn’t the sharing of this exhibitor’s long time experience be considered beneficial to building a more vigorous organization? What is happening here?
Remember the good old days when city folk eagerly awaited the arrival of the "EX" in late summer? That too was once a highly revered fall agricultural fair. But slowly agriculture was removed and it became simply an annual amusement park, until one day it was gone. My fear is that power and arrogance and a true lack of foresight will cause the ever popular Agricultural Exhibition in Carp Village to suffer the same fate.
Who is holding the Carp Agricultural Society accountable for its questionable decisions?
In lieu of property taxes, Agricultural Societies in Ontario have a legal responsibility to "return" to the community. Shouldn’t restoring a significant heritage building be considered "returning to the community"? Indeed, as mandated custodians of this slice of Canadian culture, shouldn’t it be a decisive priority?
Similarly, the mandate of Agricultural Societies in Ontario is to promote agriculture. It seems obvious; but shouldn’t hosting Holstein Shows at the County Level be considered promoting agriculture?
The Ministry of Agriculture and the taxpayers of Ontario must start asking questions. If not forthwith, yet another symbol of our rich local culture and heritage will be lost forever!
Now is the time for the directors to act honourably to restore honour to a society that was once considered honourable.