Exhibiting Fruits & Vegetables at the Macon County Fair

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The Macon County Fair will soon be here.  Tuesday, September 13 is the day to check in individual fair entries with the fair opening at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, September 14.

Everyone should enter something in the fair. If you’ve never entered your garden products in a fair, you’ve never really experienced a fair. Whether it’s fruit or vegetable or flowers (or even crafts or canned goods), you’ll make the fair better and feel more a part of it if you place an entry.

Rules and classes for each category of exhibit can be found in this year’s fair catalog or on the internet at www.themaconcofair.com. These rules should be followed   carefully. Be sure to have the correct number of items in each class.

When preparing a display for exhibit, it is helpful to know what judges will look for in the display. The judge may lift and examine products on all sides, so imperfections cannot be hidden.

The important characteristics of good vegetables are not greatly different from those looked for in flowers and fruits.

Crops must always be shown at their best. Some grooming is important, but grooming should not give an unnatural look to the crop. Here are the main characteristics a judge evaluates.

Quality. Quality means that the vegetable is at its best and in prime eating condition. In some vegetables prime eating condition may be at a fairly young stage such as in summer squash, beets or green beans. In others, such as tomato, watermelon or eggplant, it means fully developed fruits at the peak of maturity. The quality of a vegetable includes color, shape, texture, taste and size.

Condition. The condition is a measure of how the crop has been handled. An important part of this evaluation is cleanliness. Such items as tomato or pepper are seldom a problem, but root crops such as onions, potatoes and beets, or leaf crops such as lettuce may present problems in cleaning. Do not wash vegetables for exhibit unless absolutely necessary. Use a very soft cloth or brush, and lightly remove any soil. Washing may remove the waxy “bloom” on some vegetables, which should be left on. In others, washing gives an unnatural “scrubbed” appearance. Vegetables should also be as free from blemishes as possible. These may be caused by insects, diseases or handling.

Uniformity. One of the most obvious conditions of a display is uniformity of the produce. Size is important, and all vegetables in one exhibit should be uniform in size. In addition to being the same size, they should be typical of the variety‑‑not too large or too small. Uniform ripeness is also important. The display with slightly immature and uniform vegetables is better than one containing items at different stages of maturity. There also should be uniformity of shape. Uniform color is also desirable.