GREENVILLE — Greenville High School graduate and 10-year 4-H member Thomas Shaw was recently elected to the Darke County Fairboard.
Shaw graduated from Greenville in 2014, and is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communication at Ohio State University, with a minor in Agricultural Business. The Agricultural Communication program at OSU combines traditional journalism, web design, editing, and radio broadcasting courses with a focus on issues related to agriculture.
Shaw’s specialty is in radio programming, having served as Co-Farm News Director at local radio station WTGR for three years, as well as participating in radio broadcasts at the Future Farmers of America’s national convention each October.
In addition, Shaw has been active in Junior Fair activities throughout his life, including serving as junior fair president.
“My family’s been showing dairy at the fair for over a hundred years,” Shaw said. “I have a passion for the fair, and I’ve always had that passion. I’ve also become close with fair board members and their families over the years. It truly is a phenomenal fair.”
Shaw believes his degree program conveys skills that will be crucial to agriculture going forward.
“Communicating the industry is going to be key,” Shaw said. “A lot of the people coming into college, that’s their passion – communicating about the industry that they love. And with more and more people leaving the farm, there’s going to be some disconnect and some disinformation out there.”
Two percent of the country’s population feeds the entire U.S., according to Shaw, with one out of seven jobs in Ohio alone tied to the agriculture industry. As a result, many don’t know where their food comes from, and there are times when people are led to believe the wrong things.
“If you’re going out and buying a car, you have a right to question everything about that car,” Shaw said. “It’s the same if you’re buying fresh meat or fresh produce. Times are changing, and we have to educate the public. I’ve always tried to explain, in my stories and projects, not only why something is happening, but how it affects everyone, not just the ag industry.”
Shaw intends to apply this perspective to his work on the Darke County Fair Board.
“I’m starting to see other fairs that are learning from what we’re doing, and they’re becoming pretty great too,” Shaw said. “For us to continue to be leaders in the fair market, we have to do new things and innovate our fair.”
Shaw feels his experience with the junior fair makes him a good fit for the board.
“It was time to have young blood, new ideas, and someone ready and willing to give it their all,” Shaw said. “When I was thinking about running, I spoke with some of my mentors, and they said it was the right time for me to jump in. A lot of people are ready for something new, and that’s what I hope to bring.”
And Shaw has some fairly specific new ideas he plans to bring to the table, including improvements to various buildings, developing a smartphone application that would allow fairgoers to buy tickets and include maps showing the location of specific vendors, and planning more events outside the traditional fair season.
“The fair is two weeks out of the year,” Shaw said. “That means we have 50 weeks to continue to do other things on our fairgrounds. Right now, we do about one major event a month. If we could increase that, that gives us more revenue to grow our fair.”
Ultimately, Shaw feels the fair needs long-term thinking, with an eye toward the junior fair participants who are the fair’s future.
“We need to have a 10-year plan, or even more, to move forward,” Shaw said. “And we need to remember that kids are always gonna be the future of our fair. They’re the future board members, the future vendors, and they’re the future people coming in through the gate.”
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