We had to do our annual four-hour shift at the Oregon State Fair booth for Oregon Women for Agriculture again this year. In addition to trying to avoid all the sweets, fats and sales pitches, we tried to pick up clues about the state and local economy.
First impression: the State Fair itself isn’t doing too well. Some well-informed gossip told us public information, such as that the organization has had three directors in the past three years. The gossiper also had other non-public bits, but we can’t repeat them because someone might recognize the person.
We can say that the building we were in seemed to have half or fewer exhibitors than in years past. OTOH, we were able to dine on pancakes and watermelon from the Umatilla County booth, and delicious Tillamook Cheese from their booth, which was conveniently located nearby.
Out on the fairway, there also seemed to be fewer exhibitors, but they had bigger, higher quality and more expensive items for sale: hot tubs, garages and garden sheds, for example. The military was out in full force, recruiting enthusiastically. At the US Marines booth, we saw a weapon that was bigger and badder than a bazooka, takes out bigger and badder tanks, and then just gets tossed after it is used once.
People who stopped by our OWA booth seemed more informed and friendlier than the people we usually see, but it was early in the morning and most were farmers or retired farmers, still a group of people we consider the best in the world.
Agriculture seems to be doing pretty well, all things considered, though you would never get a practicing farmer to admit that.