Every year around the middle of October, the city starts to hang banners on the light poles along the Lakeshore. They are long, trimmed with gold and royal blue in colour. They harken the arrival of one of Ontario’s most important festivals, and one that every Torontonian should attend. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, aka the Royal, is a celebration of Ontario farmers and their accomplishments. It is a showcase for the people who feed the city to display their very best, from squashes and jams to livestock. It is also a great opportunity for the youth in rural communities to shine and get the support they need from their peers and the community at large. Without these farmers we would be eating and living poorly, and it is our responsibility as a city to show some love.
A couple of years ago I did just that. I was invited down to the Queen’s Guinea Show, where many young farmers who have been raising beef come to show off the animals they've cared for outside of their school hours. While many kids get off school and play with their friends, these guys and girls studied how to be better caregivers to the animal, and learned what the animal needed not just to survive, but to thrive and earn top dollar at the market. That year one of the big winners was a young man named Jarrett Hargrave, who raised “Murray”, a beautiful Angus steer. When the auction started I nervously started bidding on Murray. No one knew who I was, but after the final gavel was smacked everyone knew that Sanagan’s Meat Locker just paid $7/lb for this giant. I paid over $10,000 for Murray that day (which is a totally barf-inducing amount). I knew the most I would get for his meat in my shop was around $4,000, but that’s not really the point. By getting that price for his steer, Jarrett will now definitely have the confidence and know-how to continue raising the best beef, and really understand the value in caring for these animals.
The Royal has been a long tradition in Ontario, and I hope my son gets to enjoy it when he’s my age. And I hope he has the ability to encourage the young farmers of his generation to continue producing the high-quality food that we expect at the shop and on our dinner table.So go get tickets already!