“I think the city folk need to know what the farmers do.”

That’s how Diesel Gilbert, 11, from Cismont Manor farm in Keswick, summed up Saturday’s Main Street Agriculture Celebration.

Gilbert came with his family and a couple of their cows to Charlottesville’s Lee Park. He was answering questions about farming and cattle and telling stories about his beef cow named Raspberry while letting people pet her.

Paul “Peanut” Coleman, a Farm Bureau board member, said the event was a great way to get people in the city, who usually don’t get the opportunity to see farm animals, to learn about agriculture.

Lee Park was full of animals, including cows, llamas, chickens, turkeys, honeybees, horses and goats. The largest crowd gathered for the cow-milking contest with a huge dairy cow from Early Dawn Dairy.

“We live in a society where people think we don’t need farms because we’ve got grocery stores,” Coleman said. “Well, without the farms there would be no grocery stores and people don’t understand that unless they see it, so with the animals coming here today they get to actually see where their food is coming from.”

Along with the farm animals, several agriculture-related businesses were on hand to provide information.

The Local Food Hub offered information on it goals, which are built around reinstating small and medium-sized farms as the main food source for the community and making sure that as many people as possible have access to fresh, nutritious food that is grown on farms around the area.

“We think today has been terrific for a first-time event,” said Kristen Suokko, executive director of the Local Food Hub. “It’s so important to bring this kind of awareness into the city and promote this great agricultural heritage that we have around here.”

A Keswick heifer named Raspberry welcomed the children at
the Main Street Agriculture Celebration

Jack Rickett, with Piedmont Power and a sponsor of the event, said he decided to become involved because he wants to let the community know they were opening a new location in Charlottesville and to build a relationship with the local farming community.

“We want people to know that we are here, we support community events, especially ones built around farming and agriculture,” he said.

The main goal of the event was to not just bring animals to the city, but also to educate residents on the importance of agriculture.

“I’m pleased to see that more people seem to be interested in talking and getting to know about the agriculture than I expected,” said Corky Shackelford, former president of the Albemarle Farm Bureau.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension also was on hand, celebrating its 100th anniversary of agricultural education.

“We provide education programs to all types of farmers that may specialize in beef, hay, dairy, goats, sheep, horses,” said extension agent Carrie Swanson. “We also have a youth development component, like the 4-H program, and family consumer science agents that focus on food safety education.”

Two girls with the 4-H club walked around with a goat.

“I just hope the kids here enjoy it enough to want to get involved,” said 4-H member Joy McGill, “Farming is really important, and I just love animals.”

Though some attendees were not particularly familiar with farm animals, others were right at home.

“We love to farm. My kids grew up farming. All we do is farm,” said Carrie Blackwell, who lives on a large farm in Keswick. Her boys, along with several other children at the event, spent a lot of time milking a wooden cow provided for the young ones to practice with.

Gilbert, who spent his day keeping an eye on his heifer Raspberry, said that some people who asked him questions had experience with cows and others knew very little and it was fun to inform them.

“I think everybody has been having a good time and I hope we have this event every year,” he said.