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The Harford County Farm Fair will remain at its longtime home at the Harford County Equestrian Center in Bel Air, as long as Chairwoman Joan Ryder has anything to say about it.

Last week, Harford County officials were given the go-ahead from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to develop an agricultural center near Dublin on land partially purchased under the state’s Program Open Space Fund.

The deal could one day lead to relocation of the Harford County Farm Fair from its home at the Equestrian Center in Bel Air to the prospective ag center site off Route 1 near Route 136.

“The farm fair, as an entity, supports an ag center, but we never said we would move there,” Ryder, one of the co-chairs of the farm fair board of directors, said Tuesday. “We have no intention of even talking about that at this point. No one ever came to us and said we would like you to move there.”

Northern Harford Sen. Barry Glassman wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that the discussion of moving the farm fair to the ag center is years away, but both he and members of an ag committee created to help with the expo center project expressed concerns of the size of the equestrian center, parking issues and outdated buildings for animal health and safety associated with the farm fair.

“I sent Barry Glassman a scathing e-mail and said ‘if you want to run the farm fair, you can,’” Ryder said.

Ryder claims the equestrian center, which has been the home to the farm fair since its revival in 1987, is a perfect location.

“For the size of the farm fair we handle and all of us that work for it, it [the equestrian center] is a very good venue right in the center of town,” Ryder said.

The farm fair typically draws 50,000 people over several days in late July and early August.

Ryder said she doesn’t think people would want to work for free for something that would bring in 100,000 people.

“I just can’t even think about more people coming,” Ryder said. “That may be something that would happen 20 years down the road when I don’t have to worry about it.”

Since the farm fair is a nonprofit organization, Ryder said the sponsors of the fair are extremely important to its success.

“I mean it is going to piss everyone off if we just up and move,” Ryder said.

Although the program is typically self-supporting, the farm fair is also receiving help during these tough economic times from the Harford County Council.

The council approved a bill in February to transfer $30,000 in this fiscal year to help fund the fair this summer.

“Any kind of decision to move the fair would not be something that the county would do,” Ryder said. “The county can say, ‘we would like you to come there,’ but we don’t have to do it.”

Ryder said she thinks elected officials used the possible relocation of the farm fair as a way to get the ag center approved.

“If a politician used that to get what they want, they used it without our [farm fair board of directors’] cooperation,” Ryder said. “We are for the farm community, but we never had a conversation about where we would like to move in the future.”

The proposed expo center, which is at least five years out, could encompass up to 87 acres across Route 1 from the Ball Park Diner.

The county acquired 22 acres with its own funds and 63.8 adjoining acres with state funds, a total cost of $1.4 million. The acreage has been in the county’s land inventory for a few years.

The centerpiece of the expo center will be a giant steel building that will allow for year-round farmers’ markets, a farm museum, 4-H and national livestock shows, auctions and other agriculture related events, according to Glassman.

Last week, Glassman said the goal is to complete the ag center project as a nonprofit endeavor, and not on the back of the county.


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