Driving the future of agriculture forward in the NC Mountains

by | Sep 14, 2022

We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Tamara Crain, Commercial Exhibits and Concessions Coordinator and acting Entry Department Coordinator for the NC Mountain State Fair, is one of those employees. Stay tuned each Wednesday here on the blog or any of our social media accounts and join us in honoring those who continue to drive our state’s agriculture industry forward each day!

A passion for agriculture was instilled in Tamara Crain, Commercial Exhibits and Concessions Coordinator and acting Entry Department Coordinator for the NC Mountain State Fair, at a young age and only grew throughout each year of her life. “Growing up my grandfather had chicken houses, so my father grew up helping him on the farm,” she said. “Then when I was growing up we had a garden and I helped dad with that a lot. Even though I got out of agriculture for a little while, it stayed a consistent hobby of mine and continued to grow as a passion until I eventually made it my full-time career.” Today, not only does Tamara work with agriculture every day in her job with the N.C. Mountain State Fair, but she also raises chickens, rabbits, and fruits/vegetables at her home, which happens to be her grandfather’s farmland, and teaches her kids about the importance of agriculture.

Before her career with the NCDA&CS N.C. Mountain State Fair began, Tamara was a regular exhibitor at the fair each year. “I entered many of the photography and arts & crafts competitions at the fair where I fell in love with the atmosphere and the people,” she said. Being an exhibitor year after year gave Tamara the chance to make many connections in the Mountain State Fair office and opened up many volunteer opportunities for her. “In 2004, I started working at the N.C. Mountain State Fair part-time in the Livestock Entry Department where I focused mainly on computer work and helping organize files on the system,” she said. “In 2008, I was hired on full-time as the Entry Department Coordinator for the fair over seeing all competitive competitions of the fair and time has flown by ever since.”

Fourteen years after being hired, Tamara continues to love her busy job throughout the year. Although the N.C. Mountain State Fair normally takes place in September, Tamara spends her time every day preparing for the fair and ensuring each year is better than the last. “Children, students and teens from across the state come to the Mountain State Fair each year to show their chickens, rabbits, meat goats, dairy goats, sheep, beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, llamas, and to show case their creative arts, crafts, cooking, and talents” she said. “Every year the goal is to make things better for these kids and grow the show schedule in a way that not only expands the options available to them, but also the opportunities for growth and expansion in the industry.”

Planning a large-scale event such as the N.C. Mountain State Fair, comes with a plethora of situations and challenges to work through, which is why there truly is no typical day for Tamara. “One day I might be working on the computer and managing social media or other databases and the next moment I might be helping livestock producers or show groups around the state coordinate paperwork and necessity items for the fair,” she said. “I facilitate a lot of partnerships with agriculture groups across the state, including N.C. State Extension and local 4-H groups, to ensure they have everything they need to show their animals, arts and crafts, horticulture, cooking/baking, in the fall.” She also helps staff in the front office manage phone calls regarding other livestock shows held throughout the year at their facility. “I enjoy working solely for the fair each day because it gives me plenty of time to prepare for almost any situation that can occur,” she said, “and when you are planning an event this big, that preparation is essential.”

Through the years, Tamara has seen many changes and improvements across the fair, but one of her favorites has been the incorporation of the Special Livestock show that is held at the N.C. State Mountain State Fair each year. “When I was first hired on, I would go to the State Fair in Raleigh to help in the livestock office with the livestock shows. I learned about a lot of the new shows they were incorporating at facilities in that part of the state,” Tamara said. “It was there that I learned about the Special Livestock show and I immediately brought it back as an idea to incorporate at our fair. It’s been a hit ever since and it’s one of my favorites.” The Special Livestock show is where kids and animal owners come together to allow special needs children/adults from across the state to show their animals. Last year, the event hosted about 22 special needs students, including several from the school for the deaf. “This event is so special because you watch the kids who show in the arena throughout the fair come together willingly and walk alongside a special needs student, teaching them how to show a live animal, how to handle that animal and why it’s important,” Tamara said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see children and adults alike come together and put on this incredible event for the agriculture industry. These kids are the future of agriculture, so it’s vital to ensure they are guided every step of the way.”

Tamara also loves seeing all of the hard work put in by herself and the other staff members at the N.C. Mountain State Fair come to fruition in the fall. “We have a lot of new staff come on board during the month of the fair, which is always fun because they help us bring the vision to life,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see the work put in throughout the year come alive for 10 days in September.” This year the N.C. Mountain State Fair is being held September 9-18th in Fletcher.

When she is not at work, Tamara can often be found at a variety of events with her children, including 4-H events, livestock shows, sports events and just enjoying the great outdoors. Her family is also heavily involved with the youth group at their church. Join us in thanking Tamara for all of her hard work ensuring youth in our state have the opportunity to showcase their talents at the N.C. Mountain State Fair each year!