Master Gardener tips for the Panhandle – Week of July 11, 2022

By Elaine Pile, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener

Tips for a Successful County Fair Entry

County fairs are just around the corner, and we hope you will have items to enter! Consider entering your garden and crop bounty in the open horticulture, floriculture and field crops classes at your county fair. Your entries are judged on the following criteria: freedom from injury, quality, condition, uniformity and fair preparation. This information can be found in 4-H manuals and in your county fair book. Contact your local Nebraska Extension office for these publications. See you at the fair!! 

Did you know numbers matter? A common mistake made when exhibiting produce at the fair is having the incorrect number of items in your exhibit. For instance, if you are entering carrots, regardless of their class, you should have 5 carrots. However, if you are entering cucumbers, the number needed for exhibit varies according to class. Slicing requires two and pickling requires five. If the incorrect numbers are exhibited, ribbon ranking may be lowered.  So, numbers DO matter!!

To stem or not to stem, that is the question!  Tomatoes should be exhibited at the fair without stems and should be displayed blossom end up. Vine crops such as squash, pumpkin and watermelon should have stems left on and trimmed to the length recommended in the fair book and 4-H publication. Kale and chard should be exhibited with stems in a jar of cold water, as well as herbs like basil, oregano, parsley and thyme. To stem or not depends on the crop!!

Freshness and quality are keys to a successful fair exhibit. Take the time to carefully harvest your produce, choosing items that are in prime condition, of marketable size and uniform shape. Use a soft brush or damp cloth to clean your produce but avoid excessive scrubbing.  Follow the cleaning instructions for each exhibit. Produce should be correctly trimmed per the pointers in the manual. A little extra time taken to properly prepare your exhibit will reap good rankings at the fair!

What class are your vegetables in? Grab your fair book, and determine which classes your produce entries reside in. For instance, peppers have six classes; squash have ten; tomatoes have seven. This helps speed up the check-in process and also ensures your entry will be judged in the appropriate class. This week we’ve covered a few tips to help you enter produce at the fair.  For additional information, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.  Here’s to purple ribbons at the fair!