Kitchen Gardening

Be a Blue Ribbon Vegetable Winner

It’s county fair time and your chance to get some recognition for a season of vegetable growing.

A plate of large tomatillos stood out among all the other entries to take the blue ribbon at the Colorado State Fair.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

Don’t miss your chance to be part of the excitement at the county fair. If you’ve never entered any of the vegetable contests before, what’s stopping you? As one judge once told me, “There’s always beginner’s luck.”

The key to success for winning blue ribbons, prize money, and recognition for your gardening efforts is to study the show guide. This book or brochure includes all of the rules you’ll need to know for entering your tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, squashes and even giant pumpkins.

Read the show guide carefully and note the dates and times to take your entries to the fair. Pay special attention to the entry requirements because details count. Look for the requirements for entering each category including the size, number required, preparation, etc. 

Judges will be looking for ways to disqualify your entry, so be sure you can meet all of the requirements.

Then take a tour of your garden to see what fruits, vegetables and herbs are potential winners. Fill out the entry forms and any identification cards that will stay with your entries.

Get in the garden early in the morning, right before the entries are due at the fair. Look for the best vegetable examples in your garden. Think about the perfect produce you look for at the store and try to match the market quality. Avoid taking any fruits or vegetables that are overgrown or too small, those with soft spots or blemishes and any other obvious problems.

Use scissors or pruners to carefully cut vegetables from plants or to harvest stems of herbs. Take care not to damage any fruits or vegetables. Then trim the stems to the proper length, follow other preparation rules, and wrap or pack your entries to take to the fair. 

Your goal is to present an entry of a set of beautifully matched vegetables that are at the peak of perfection.

Sometimes participants can watch the judging; other fairs let the judges work without an audience. The winners are revealed when ribbons are placed on the top entries.

The entire process is fun, but there’s also more to it. Taking vegetable entries to the county fair is an important part of America’s agricultural history. Join in, and you can help keep the rich tradition alive. 

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