I do the same, happy to have paid time off from my day job while I do and enjoy something I love.  This year’s fair runs Aug. 21 through Aug. 30, and believe you me, you’ll find more “for and about Duxbury” there this year than ever before.  Duxbury’s two 4-H poultry clubs alone would fill a school bus, and a second bus just for the chickens.  Youngsters abound at the Paul and Mariclaire Glova’s mini-farm on Tremont Street, and there’s another batch over at the O’Neill Farm on Winter Street and Autumn Avenue.  You may have bought some 4-H eggs at the Duxbury Farmer’s Market’s grand opening.

I ran into Mariclaire at the market – but first, a bit of due diligence and disclosure. I volunteer at the fair, and this year I’m more involved than ever in 4-H and the Poultry House.  I’ve been attending the monthly meetings at the fairgrounds, sucking up the pizza somebody brings, and adding very little to raise the level of discourse.  Nothing new, but now I do it as a committee member, not as a journalist.

So I ran into Mariclaire at the Farmers Market, chatted a little about the 4-H booth and the eggs they were selling.  The eggs are from pastured hens.  Mariclaire helped me sort out some of the differences in how eggs and hens are designated (some of this I knew already).

“Cage-free” can mean very little.  Hens may be hoarded in huge barns, de-beaked so they don’t peck each other to death, never see the light of the sun or restful darkness at night and still be called “cage-free.”  It’s a step down, probably, from being “Born Free” and hiding the phase “From Caged Hens” in fine print on the side of the package.  At the Glova Farm, 4-Hers are striving for something between “free-range” and “pastured.”  Both designations require enough space and time for hens to forage, sun-bathe, graze and catch bugs without stripping the area clean from all its grass.

“You can tell our hens get plenty of sun,” Mariclaire explained.  “White feathers turn yellow in the sun.  If you see a brilliant white hen, you know she never goes outside.”

Jeff Chandler inherits a few hens now and then, but his farm between Lincoln and Franklin Streets raises beef.  He’s tied in with Carl O’Neill’s dairy farm.  Cows need to be bred to produce milk.  Their calves get plenty, and the rest goes into bottles for a year or so.  The heifers (females) might stay on to become dairy cows, but the bullocks need another plan, something like the extra roosters in a poultry operation.  In a full-sized farm, all of these activities take place in one comprehensive operation.  Giant roasters are often capons – castrated roosters that grow large and tender.  Beef is often from steers – bullocks who find a fate similar to capons.

It’s enough to make some folks into vegetarians, but for everyone a deeper look into farm life raises awareness.  Indeed, there may be nothing more callous than scarfing down eggs and burgers without the slightest awareness of the lives and deaths of the animals involved.  On a commercial farm, for example, hens may receive the best life possible as long as they lay eggs, but they are not kept on afterwards as pets.  They finish their existence as soup.  The closer people are to such cycles, the more likely they are to demand a healthy, humane life and death for the animals involved.  

You and your family can reconnect your roots to the past and present by making the fair a hands-on experience.  This year’s exhibitors handbook is available online at www.marshfieldfair.org.  Mind the entry dates; some are days before the Fair opens.  You’ll need to plan.  Others are then and there, like the Cow Flap Toss.  Cow Flaps courtesy of Jeff Chandler, former Sea World visitor, and his steers.