See you at the fair!

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

That line certainly dates me and was a popular shout out back in the 60’s, among people who looked forward to meeting up at fairs. Here in the Philippines that usually meant the school fair, during which rides, booths, games and three days of fun were held to break the monotony of school, a chance to show off your school facilities or grounds to outsiders or maybe get to meet students of the opposite sex.

As things progressed, it became competitive, vengeful and loud. Those three days featured sports competitions, a chance to dunk the unpopular teacher or putting Mr. Popularity “in jail” or being handcuffed with your crush and pretending innocence. It was either heavenly smelling her perfume or a total ego crush as she held you in contempt and utter disgust! By the 70’s, school fairs started featuring concerts and those became the breakout events for many OPM bands.

Unfortunately, that was largely the extent of fairs in schools and universities I got to go to or visit. Being an agriculturally dependent country, it makes me wonder why the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Trade and the DepEd have not put their resources together to develop and promote “county fairs” and club events such as the 4H clubs did in the US back then.

Government and media habitually point out that many farmers’ children have no desire to carry on with the back-breaking toil of farming and would rather go to the cities and work at a call center or be a food delivery rider. If they’re so poor, how do they even transition to the city with nothing on them? Back breaking? Maybe, if all you plant is rice the way it’s been done for the last hundred years without mechanization or solar technology.

Half of those claims are perpetuated myths used to justify the put down of farming. There is so much video evidence on YouTube about successful roof deck farming on 150 to 200 square meters, while these farmers’ kids have an average of 1.5 hectares that is big enough to raise vegetables, livestock, fish and fruits to sustain a family annually.

The reason we need to put up and promote 4H clubs and fairs is for the very young people to know where their food comes from, that there is money in backyard farming and a future in farming. If you work and save you can rent, lease or buy more land through deferred payments. But children need to be taught the way they should go, grow and think.

Considering the commercial success of such trade fairs you would think that the government would have seen the potential early on, not only in terms of money but also in promoting the programs and services of government and empowering people through public seminars. We have mistakenly bet the farm on Facebook and social media, allowed Covid to scare us and disregard the value of human interaction and exchange.

Today, for instance, marks the 12th year of the World Game Fowl Expo, Jan. 19 to 21, 2024 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. I’m certain that this trade show for game fowl enthusiasts or “sabungeros” will attract over a hundred thousand visitors, hundreds of exhibitors and will generate millions upon millions of pesos per day.

The main attraction may be all the live hens, roosters and breeding materials for sale, but it is also the go-to event for companies such as BMeg Feeds, San Miguel Animal Health products to showcase their wide array of products as well as host mini seminars to educate the public in matters relative to animal care, feeding and medication.

Even micro businesses such as manufacturers of poultry and game fowl equipment like incubators, a variety of pens, inventory related materials and accessories look forward to the expo to promote their much-needed wares in the poultry and game fowl industry.

Barely a month after that, there will be a similar event on Feb. 9 to 11 called the Philippine Pet Expo at the SMX Convention Center and once again the fair or expo as they call it, will focus on gamefowls as well as a wide variety of pets and will be equally well-attended. After that smaller events will take place up north and down south as far as Cebu and Davao. The next Agri link fair won’t be until October, I think.

The expos or fairs are certainly good for the sabong industry, livestock sector and a welcome event among pet lovers, but they are usually private sector and commercially driven. People who have related products and the capital to pay for three days’ participation of about P50,000 I am told, get to sell their produce. Once again it ends up becoming an event for people with lots of cash and for people in Metro Manila.

Based on what I’ve seen on YouTube, the ordinary Filipinos who have products to sell, live plants or plant-based, end up going to the public markets, tiangge or live-stock roadside selling points such as in Padre Burgos, Batangas, places in Bulacan, etc. There is no system, no quality control, no security measures against stolen goods being sold or scams.

Worst of all there is no rhyme or reason. From the very little I know about state fairs and county fairs abroad, the objective is to promote commerce and agriculture within towns, counties or districts. The theme is to promote community, awareness and getting to know your fellow farmers, producers, vendors and buyers. It is not about attendance, ticket sales and big profits. Most importantly, it celebrates and honors farming and agriculture. See you at the BMeg booths…today, tomorrow and Sunday!

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