by Rebecca French Smith
There was a huge story at the Missouri State Fair this past week, and it had nothing to do with rodeos. In fact, it was overlooked by the press – it was about agriculture.
The week before the fair began, folks all over the grounds were busy putting things in place. In the Farm Bureau building, we were setting up displays that told the story of agriculture, finalizing milk deliveries and making sure the Ford F-150 we were raffling off was clean and shiny. Months of planning goes in to what we bring to the State Fair because, after all, the fair is where consumers can learn how farmers and ranchers provide the food they eat.
And it’s quite the show.
Walking through the FFA, 4-H and other agriculture buildings prior to the beginning of the fair, I came upon a couple dozen eight-foot tables where the ham judging was taking place. To a person not in agriculture, this might have looked like preparations for a mighty big breakfast, but to the judges inspecting each one, small nuances between the hams were the difference between a dinner I might put on my table and one that would be fit for a king.
Around the corner sat some of the largest fruits and vegetables I’ve seen, at least this year, and some new and interesting winners. The grand pumpkin weighed in at 138.1 lbs. and the largest watermelon at 94.7. In the cold case, pristine and perfect samples of gardeners’ labors were on display. Golden raspberries, a variegated tomato variety and Chinese green noodle beans were a few I’d not seen before. The farmers and gardeners who raise this amazing produce put me to shame, which isn’t too hard to do. If you’ve ever tried to raise a garden, then you’re aware of how difficult it can sometimes be and can appreciate the hard-won ribbons.
Going to the Missouri State Fair involved another mindset. As wholesome as the produce and meats looked, my diet had to disappear for the day, and I had to be willing to try foods not normally seen on my dinner table, foods that might have made me blurt out, “I can’t believe I just ate that!”
So, for the sake of research, ahem, I indulged in a few. I can say, the corn dog was fresh (and on a stick as easy-to-eat fair food should be); the red velvet funnel cake with powdered sugar and cream cheese icing was sinful; and the deep-fried Oreos were almost too sweet to eat more than one (full disclosure, I ate two). I did not see deep-fried Twinkies, but don’t think I would have had room even if I had.
Turns out, there is another reason the State Fair happens only once a year…eating that way can only happen once a year. Everything in moderation, right?
(Rebecca French Smith, of Columbia, Mo. is a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)