Wednesday, February 24, 2016/lk
RICKREALL — When the attendance at the annual Polk Home and Garden Show more than doubled last year, organizer Deb Thomas realized it was in part because of the Oregon Poultry Swap that ran concurrently with her event.
Usually, Thomas said attendance has been about 800 people on Saturday during the home show. Last year, it soared to 2,200, most of them coming through the back door.
“I realized I needed to do something ag related,” she said.
The poultry swap, in need of more space, ran the second weekend of February, leaving the rest of the fairgrounds for Thomas to add the Mid-Valley Winter AgFest, which will run in conjunction with the home show Saturday and Sunday at the Polk County Fairgrounds & Event Center.
The event has been 20 years in the making, Thomas said.
“We’ve been talking about it for years,” she said. “We just weren’t quite sure how to do it.”
After seeing the interest in agriculture from the Poultry Swap, Thomas said she started working on the ag fest the day after the home show last year.
Thomas said the home show and the ag fest are two separate events, but they share the same location.
The home and garden show will still be free, with free parking. The ag fest costs $5 cash only admission for those 18 years and older.
Thomas said the response for the agriculture fest has been tremendous.
“I’m running out of room,” she said. “I’ve never been full.”
The trains in the garden show has been moved to its own building, and is included as features at both the home show and the ag fest, according to the respective websites.
Also at the ag fest will be nurseries, Master Preservers, Saturday markets from Independence and the Polk County Bounty Market, as well as demonstrations and information about the latest in ag tech, including a drone display.
Each day will feature speakers and seminars on a variety of topics. Thomas said perhaps the speaker she is looking forward to the most is a seminar on protecting family farms.
“It is ‘planning for productive family farm transplant,’” Thomas said. “What it is, a lot of families now lose their farms to taxes if they don’t have the right safeguards in place. They end up having their tax burden so high, and they have to pay cash for the taxes, so they have to sell the farm to pay the taxes when mom or dad dies.”
Thomas has two main goals for the ag fest, which will benefit local FFA chapters and 4-H clubs.
“One of the main components is to promote commerce and ag commerce in Polk County,” she said. “The second focus is education of families and children — and this is very cliché — but the relationship of farm or soil to table, where their food comes from, the whole thing, it’s very important.”
Thomas was raised in Salem and worked the berry and bean fields as a child. She participated in the FFA and has always known where her food comes from.
But now, especially for those from urban areas, that knowledge has been lost along the way.
“They have no idea what sort of issues the farmers face on a day-to-day basis and the lengths they go to get our food to us, to feed us,” Thomas said.
The ag fest will have plenty of family friendly activities, from a petting zoo ran by the 4-H Achievers to face painting to animal balloons. The Yamhill Historical Society will bring a historical covered wagon to climb on and explore, and antique farm equipment will be on display.
Vendors will have a plethora of shopping activities from farmers markets to artisan booths, pottery, plants and local honey.
For those who wish to participate, a passport will be available. Once it has been stamped from all six buildings, it may be entered to win a portable Traeger Grill and other prizes.
Antique Powerland will provide a shuttle service to get from the Polk County Museum to the other buildings, helping people get to seminars and presentations in a timely fashion.