New partnership between Farm Bureau and Universal Fairs will help build State Fair of Virginia

To help preserve the tradition of the State Fair of Virginia, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation has entered into a formal partnership with Universal Fairs LLC of Cordova, Tenn.

The Richmond-based nonprofit agricultural organization will be involved in developing the agricultural component of the fair, which Universal Fairs purchased at auction in May. The fair’s former operators declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier in the spring.

Called Commonwealth Fairs and Events LLC, the new partnership will run the state fair as well as other shows and events at the 331-acre property in Caroline County. The first order of business will be to hold an exciting new state fair this fall from Sept. 28 through Oct. 7.

“Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and Universal Fairs have put together a partnership that we feel will help retain and grow the agricultural component of the fair,” explained VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. “Universal Fairs has a proven track record of putting on successful fairs in several locations around the country. We are very excited and look forward to working with them for many years.” UF’s events include large fairs in Tennessee, Georgia and Washington state, a festival in Arizona and a variety of shows and expos throughout the United States.

“Universal Fairs has extensive experience in running family-friendly, entertaining fairs, and Virginia Farm Bureau brings an exciting agricultural component to the mix,” said UF President Mark Lovell. “We are new to Virginia, but we know how to run a fair. With Virginia Farm Bureau, a trusted organization that has been around for more than 85 years, we will be able to bring together the best of both worlds. I think that by working together we can help strengthen Virginia’s agricultural stature and visibility through various shows, events and exhibits.”

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell extended congratulations to Farm Bureau on the partnership, which he said “will further enrich the commonwealth’s long-standing tradition that is the State Fair of Virginia. For more than 100 years, the state fair has educated and entertained millions of Virginians. Today’s announcement helps to ensure that future generations of Virginians will continue to experience the best of what the fair has to offer. In addition, the Farm Bureau’s investment will guarantee that agriculture, Virginia’s largest industry, will be featured prominently—as it should be—at the fair for years to come.”

New agriculture-related events being planned include a 5-kilometer race sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, which strives to improve the farm literacy of schoolchildren, as well as the Real Virginia Virtual Farm Tour. The tour will engage families at the fair and at home with a live online discussion about farming practices. Viewers will have their questions answered by a panel of farm experts and will “tour” a half-dozen Virginia farms via video. At each farm, the owners will be on camera to describe their operations.

“Being the state’s largest farm organization, and having as part of our mission the preservation of agriculture, we felt it was paramount to step up to the plate and assist with the fair,” Pryor said. “It is a vital tool for helping the public understand the importance of the agriculture industry. We plan to carry this out through teaching exhibits, shows and competitive events that include livestock, poultry, fiber and produce.

“Equally important to us is retaining the scholarship programs for youth who compete in livestock and equine shows through the FFA and 4-H organizations,” Pryor added. “We also plan to continue competitions in photography, arts and crafts and other disciplines.”

Caroline County Board of Supervisors Chairman Wayne Acors said the county “is gratified that its months-long recruitment of the Farm Bureau to participate in the State Fair of Virginia has resulted in the announced partnership. The Farm Bureau is the premier agricultural organization in the commonwealth and brings with it stability, integrity and a large membership that will be welcome in Caroline County at the state fair and at many other events. The State Fair of Virginia will be better than ever at The Meadow Event Park.”

With more than 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply.

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