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Annie Cheatam

Pam Porter (R), co-president of the Heath Agricultural Society, arranged for Annie Cheatam (L) to come to the Heath Fair and talk about local agriculture. As the former owner of a garden center, and most recently retired after 9 years as the Director of Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA) Annie knows a lot about local farms, local gardens, local gardeners and farmers and what they, we, and our communities are doing and what we need.

CISA developed the Local Hero project, that highlights local growers and agricultural producers, and the consumers who support them. That has been a very successful program, supporting local farms, farmer’s markets, farmstands and stores that sell local produce. It has also helped to get local produce into local schools and hospitals and business cafeterias.

But CISA does more than promote the use of local products. One of its initiatives is to work with local communities to build a local agricultural infrastructure including dairy processessing, cheesemaking, wool processing and slaughter houses. This sometimes includes working to change local regulations.

I have seen local resistance to building a small animal slaughterhouse locally and I think that resistance hasn’t thought the issue through. I doublt that many of the people who don’t want a slaughterhouse are vegetarians. If we are going to eat meat, we each have to take responsibility for the death of those animals, doing it as humanely as possible.

A local slaughterhouse makes it easier for us to eat local meat, beef, pork and poultry, that we know has been raised in a healthful humane way. It would also make it easier for some of us to raise our own meat animals. We raise meat chickens and have slaughtered them ourselves, but it is hard time consuming work. Now we take them to a part-time operation, but it means at least a 50 mile drive each way. It is getting harder and harder to do this, and we still have to prepare the chickens for freezing when we get them home.

There is a rumor going round that someone is trying to set up a mobile poulty slaughtering house, a trailer that could travel from town to town, or central locations so that people who raise their own chickens and turkeys could bring them in and have access to a humane killing system, as well as efficient plucking and quick cooling. With a small operation like this the waste could be sensibly disposed of. I hope this is a good rumor. I would take advantage of such an operation.

A slaughterhouse doesn’t need to be any more visible to the community at large than any other business. Properly run it doesn’t need to present any unpleasant smells or sights. A slaughterhouse is a part of our agricultural production. How much better for the animals, the farmers, the consumers and the environment to have it operated on an appropriate scale right in our own backyard.

A Double Celebration

The Exhibit Hall with its displays of sewing, knitting, canning, baking, quilting, flowers, vegetables, fruits and assorted collections is a center of activity all through Heath Fair days. These exhibits are one of the ways that we celebrate life in our town, the skills of the residents, the creativity and purposfulness of our children, the fertility and beauty of our landscape, and our devotion to the town and its institutions and organizations. The grandsons and I won lots of prizes – for art, knitting, cookies, leaf prints, and maple cake. It came as a surprise to some that you could win a $3 First Prize. There may be even more exhibits next year.

As vice-president of the Friends of the Heath Free Public Library I spend a lot of time working at or visiting at the Book Sale tent. This is our big fund raiser for the year and this year, we almost doubled our take. This was good for the exchequer, but also good because we passed along many many good books on to happy readers.

The Elementary School also had a fund raising booth with children’s games, a raffle and a dunking booth. The volunteer fire department puts on a chicken barbecue both days with homemade root beer! And the Agricultural Society itself sells food including homemade pie, a la mode if you wish, all through the fair.

Mechanical rides will no longer come to our tiny fair so we have returned to those simpler attractions – watermelon eating contest, blueberry pie eating contest, and a big pile of sand for the youngest fair goers to play in.

Slightly older fair goers found delight in Shenandoah’s Hoopla Hoops. Thirteen year old granddaughter Colleen kept 2 hoops going. Who needs a Ferris wheel?

But this year we didn’t only have Fair festivities. My brother Tony was celebrating his 65th birthday and all our children and grandchildren got to celebrate with him.

Here is my brother the lawyer reading the tiniest contract as put together by daughter Diane. She made the kingly birthday crown but we all placed birthday wishes on the Wishing Wand in the background.

This is the second birthday celebration the Cottage Ornee has seen this year. Lucky cottage. Lucky us to have so much to celebrate at the Heath Fair.