8 Tips for Entering Produce in the Fair | Living the Country Life
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8 Tips for Entering Produce in the Fair

Enter the best fruits and vegetables from your garden in the county or state fair, and you could go from backyard gardener to blue-ribbon-winning horticulturalist!
  • Follow the rules

    Be sure to get a copy of the fair handbook, and follow the rules closely. If the guidelines specify four peppers, don't display three or six. Make sure the vegetables are clean, and prepared according to the fair rules. A little scuff of dirt can be the difference between a red and blue ribbon. You may be required to leave the tops on carrots, for example. Some rules may require produce be displayed on a certain type of plate as well.

     

    Date Published: June 23, 2014
    Date Updated: June 9, 2019
  • Plan before you plant

    "If you go through the growing season with the idea of entering your produce in a county fair, you will learn that you've got to irrigate steadily, fertilize properly and keep your produce or flowers clean of diseases and insect pests," says Lynn Long, a horticulturalist for the Oregon State University Extension Service. "Do research, call Master Gardeners and talk to your neighbors. All of that will make you a better gardener and you'll end your season with high quality produce and flowers."

    Date Published: June 23, 2014
    Date Updated: June 9, 2019
  • Consistency is key

    Anyone can show off one good tomato or one perfect cucumber, but the judges are looking for consistency in your entries. "If you have three tomatoes on the plate, they all should be around the same size, same maturity, same quality of fruit," says Charlie Nardozzi, a senior horticulturist for the National Gardening Association. 

    Date Published: June 23, 2014
    Date Updated: June 9, 2019
  • Bigger isn't always better

    Giant zucchini may be impressive, but don't enter them in the fair, unless it's for a giant zucchini contest! The ideal zucchini size for showing at the fair is 6 to 8 inches long, with uniform width and color, and no blemishes. The plate that is third from the bottom won this class. Same goes for other vegetables like beets, shown in the background here.  Larger beets can be woody. Betsy Freese's smaller, golf ball-sized beets won this class.

    Date Published: June 23, 2014
    Date Updated: June 9, 2019
  • Quality control

    The judges are looking for blemish-free produce. That means no signs of insects, disease, bruises, or cracks. Also, make sure produce is ripe, but not over-ripe. Judges will make exceptions for fruit like apples, which don't fully ripen until fall, but summer produce should not be under-ripe. Here, judge Barb Osborn of Iowa State University places the top three entries in the red and white potato categories at the Warren County Fair.

     

    Date Published: June 23, 2014
    Date Updated: June 9, 2019
  • Give onions time to dry

    The key to blue-ribbon onions is condition more than size. Pull them two weeks before show time and let them cure. If the stems aren't dry, they won't do well. In this contest, the largest onions didn't place because their stems were green and wet. 

    Date Published: June 23, 2014
    Date Updated: June 9, 2019
  • To leave the leaves, or not to leave the leaves ...

    The proper way to display a cabbage at the fair is with a few outer leaves attached, provided they don't have insect damage. Bigger cabbages generally place better, but sometimes they get so big they split, and that's a no-no at the fair. Again, consult your fair's rule book to see exactly how produce should be displayed, as far as which parts of the plant should be left or removed.

    Date Published: June 23, 2014
    Date Updated: June 9, 2019
  • Be creative if you can

    If it's allowed, be artistic with your presentation, especially if the category is something like "best display of potatoes" or "best display of a home garden". Using creative ways to dress up the entry can catch the judge's eye.

    Date Published: June 23, 2014
    Date Updated: June 9, 2019

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