EUGENE - Summer is the time for county fairs. Why not enter some of your produce at your local fair this year?
Here’s some advice from Ross Penhallegon, Oregon State University Extension Service horticulturist, who has experience as a produce judge.
Get a copy of the fair’s exhibitor’s handbook. This will contain the exhibition rules for fruits and vegetables – the “who, what, when, where and why” of your particular county fair competitions.
Decide what you want to grow and show at the fair. You will be asked to submit a group of fruits or vegetables as closely alike as possible in color, shape and size. Uniformity is critical and one of the most difficult criteria to meet.
Choose produce free of blemishes. Do not enter produce scarred by garden pests. Discard vegetables marred by disease, rough handling or careless cultivation. But realize that some years, the “perfect” fruit or vegetable just may not be possible to grow. Sometimes “any” vegetable will be better than no vegetable at all, said Penhallegon.
Select normal-sized vegetables that are ready to be consumed or cooked, at their best and most flavorful.
“Vegetables and fruits should be what’s accepted by industry or what is typically found at the grocery stores,” said Penhallegon. “Just go look at what is sold in the grocery stores and then pick your produce for contests accordingly.”
Choose specimens typical for the variety in shape, color, and size. For example, tomatoes are expected to be evenly round - don’t select oblong tomatoes that look more like squashes in shape. Save the strange specimens for the “weirdest vegetable” contest.
For more information about entering produce for competition, contact your local county fair office or your local county office of the OSU Extension Service.