Abraham Lincoln noted in his address on September 30, 1859, to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee, that agricultural fairs “…render more pleasant, and more strong and more durable the bond of social and political union among us.” This sentiment still rings true and here in New Jersey, the county fair tradition is going strong and serves to highlight the partnership among the state, counties and municipalities.
For generations, Rutgers has been a vital partner in the Garden State’s cherished county fair tradition through Rutgers Cooperative Extension and its 4-H Youth Development Program. A product of our agrarian past, 4-H in New Jersey has expanded its reach into urban and suburban communities in an effort to serve the interests of a state no longer predominantly agricultural.
A summer staple for Garden State residents, county fairs attract thousands of visitors each year. On July 5, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy paid a visit to the Cumberland County Fair, as documented in a photo gallery of the Governor’s visit by The Daily Journal.
A longstanding tradition in New Jersey, the county fair has provided an opportunity to display the agricultural achievements of New Jersey residents for well over 300 years. Rutgers’ involvement in the county fair in New Jersey only started within the last century, not long after the creation of the Extension Service in 1914. Demonstrations and exhibits by 4-H youth showcased the skills and knowledge base that was critical for a successful future in a rural economy.
For many years, the 4-H projects focused solely on agriculture and homemaking. And while you can still find many examples of traditional 4-H projects like cows and cooking, today you can find a 4-H project to fit almost any interest. In addition to showing livestock and horses, 4-Hers now demonstrate their animal science knowledge by exhibiting small animals and companion animals like cats and dogs.
Beyond animal exhibits, 4-Hers also demonstrate their technology skills with projects like robotics, model trains, model airplanes, and remote control cars. Today 4-H exhibits highlight skills and knowledge that are transferable to a wide variety of careers.
Visit any of the remaining county fairs today for great summer fun but also to learn more about the wide range of programs and activities that New Jersey 4-H offers to youth in the Garden State.