On Saturday, Oct. 12, six members of Guilford’s Food Justice Club travelled to Winston-Salem for the annual Dixie Classic Fair.
The fair’s diverse crowd and range of events, from produce displays and tractor pulling to ferris wheels and giant turkey legs, not only offered a valuable bonding experience for the club, but opened their eyes to ways in which agriculture-based events like this help shape North Carolina as a whole. Club member and senior Jackie Sullivan explains the decision making process that went into choosing the Dixie Classic Fair specifically.
“We wanted to explore the ways food and farming impact our local culture, and knew that this fair in particular had a large agricultural component,” Sullivan said.
Fellow club member, Mallory Cerkleski sees the importance of the fair specifically in terms of the wide array of livestock present.
“Fairs have a long history of being connected to agriculture since there is the component of animal showing,” Cerkleski said. “Both of these things (fairs and agriculture) give farmers something to look forward to and feel pride in the work they’ve done to raise their animals well.”
Cerkleski continues to elaborate on how different the experience of this fair was from her everyday life, both at Guilford and throughout her experiences growing up.
“I personally had never seen animals being shown because I am not from an agricultural town, which was a very eye opening experience for me,” Cerkleski said. “It was interesting to see all of the different varieties of animals and remember how complicated our food system is. People are used to eating chicken but not many people, including myself, think about which variety chicken, or goat, or cow you are eating.”
For attendee and club member Addie Ronis, this phenomena of viewing animals and understanding their species rather than taste or consumption benefits is just as eye opening as Cerkleski perceives it to be.
“Seeing all the prize-winning animals at the fair made me think a lot about why someone might be an animal farmer,” Ronis said. “So often in SFS (Sustainable Food Systems) classes and Food Justice Club we think about meat and other animal product consumption, but this was pretty different. The animals are being exhibited and we consumed them in a very voyeuristic way. It was like an animal pageant.”
Experiencing animals in a foreign way through the context of the Dixie Classic Fair wasn’t the only takeaway the Food Justice Club received from their expedition. The intersections of agriculture, recreation and consumption allowed club members like Sullivan to contemplate how food justice and this newfound fair experience might translate back to Guilford’s campus.
“Food justice is not an issue stagnant from other issues,” Sullivan said. “It is present in so many areas of our lives whether we know it or not. I think at our school in particular it would be cool to explore more of the non-traditional and less obvious aspects of food justice that can involve all students and be incorporated in an educationally fun way, like the fair trip was for us.”
Ronis concurs with this idea raised by Sullivan, that “non-traditional” education in terms of food justice can be very beneficial.
“Any occasion where students can get off Guilford’s campus and see local traditions like the Dixie Classic Fair is important to our learning on campus,” Ronis said. “We were able to apply our knowledge of the history of fairs and their connection to agriculture as we participated in this ongoing tradition.”
Cerkleski, on the other hand, realizes that the fair can be educationally beneficial in ways that extend the box of food justice.
“I think this trip showed the importance of intersectionality and constantly being critical of the systems at play when experiencing different things,” Cerkleski said. “In this case, we chose to analyze a seemingly unrelated event in the lens of food justice, but we could’ve been looking at it in the lens of economics, policy or even the psychology around fairs.”
Clerkleski also believes that, with this notion of intersectionality taken into account, one can translate any experience that pushes them out of their comfort zone into one that will help them grow as a person.
“I think it’s important to not just create or attend events that fit into your interests, but instead make everything fit your interests by being a critical thinker and analyzer,” Cerkleski said.
With these words in mind, events like the Dixie Classic Fair have the potential to go beyond the superficial expectations of fun rides and fried foods and extend into not only bonding, but valuable takeaways that can benefit communities.
Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 3 of The Guilfordian on Oct. 18, 2019.