Monday, May 11, 2009
Exhibiting Produce at Your Local Fair
County fairs, state fairs, at these events you're likely to see a display of prize-winning vegetables. Maybe you've thought to yourself "I have a garden! Maybe my peppers could win a ribbon!" Here are some tips to get you started.
A common misconception is that the largest pumpkin/potato/tomato/what have you wins the prize. When examining vegetables, judges are not necessarily looking for the largest specimen. There are several important factors such as uniformity, freshness, and quality of type. To understand why these are the criteria, we must understand WHY vegetables are exhibited. Most classes for produce require that you bring not only one but several examples of each vegetable you wish to exhibit (specific numbers are listed by each category in the fair book). Why is this? Vegetable exhibition is meant to be an evaluation of produce that you would put up for sale. Multiples are needed to judge the overall quality and consistency of the whole crop. As a farmer, you want your crop to be uniform because a consumer wants consistent ripeness, size and shape each time they buy. It goes without saying that all specimens should be clean and disease free. At most fairs, it is acceptable to gently wash your produce.
Why am I talking about fairs now when they aren't usually until June or July? To have enough good quality examples of your hard work, it is important to not only plant enough plants to produce more than you will need but you also need to plant at the right time to ensure harvest at the right time for the fair. So now is the time to start thinking if you want ripe cauliflower, pumpkins or tomatoes at just the right time!
Here are some links that can help you further if this sounds like fun to you!
Exhibiting Vegetables, includes desirable characteristics and washing methods:
4-H manual for produce
4-H manual, Exhibiting and Judging Vegetables
Exhibiting Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs & Field Crops (Tips for handling and transporting veggies and a table of desirable and undesirable traits)
Are you more of a crafter? See my companion piece, Exhibiting at the County Fair for more info.