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Vegetable Exhibitor Guide for the County Fair

Wishing you had a vegetable exhibitor guide for your county fair right at your finger tips?

Vegetable exhibitor guide – Poof! Your wish is my command. Here it is, folks. Your vegetable exhibitor guide for the county fair.

Please note that this is a very general exhibitor guide that may not be the same as your guidelines for your specific county. So, please read this one, but also look at your own county guidelines.

In this post, you will find:

  • A complete vegetable exhibitor guide for selecting quality vegetables for the county fair vegetable show.
  • Simple showing vegetables tips for preparing vegetables
  • Information about vegetable judging placing classes: About judging criteria and ribbons.

Also, you might have some more interesting classes, such as largest pumpkin or craziest cucumber. So, do be sure you read the guidelines for the horticulture judging classes. Here are some general rules of thumb across the board for exhibiting vegetables.

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Rule of Thumb

First off, all veggies for exhibition must be clean. I mean spotless. It’s important to be really careful that you don’t scrape any skin off during the cleaning process.

So, I like to take an old soft tooth brush and gently scrub away any dirt and grime. It’s generally a fairly gentle way to clean the veggies. The veggies should be without any bug spots or blemishes. It may be difficult to find a veggie without bug spots or blemishes, but you must if you’re going to exhibit.

Also, be aware of how to present vegetables on a plate. Your exhibit of veggies need to fit on the plate nicely. 

Remember: You’re exhibiting your very best hard work from your summer garden. It’s the best representation of you as a gardener and what you can grow. So, use this vegetable exhibitor guide to help you exhibit your best.

It’s also important to be sure the veggies are similar in type and kind. So, the plate of peppers should be exactly the same. The potatoes should be medium shaped and be exactly the same.

Veggies in the small categories should not be too big. Same with medium veggies. And large vegetables should not be too small, all the same.

So, by category, here is the down and dirty of which veggie is in which size group for the veggie show. Also, how to prepare them for exhibition with the vegetable exhibitor guide.

Vegetable Exhibitor Guide

Small Vegetables (12 specimens)

Green Beans: Uniform in size, shape, color, and stage of maturity. Must be free of blemishes. Should snap easily when bent. No broken ends.

Lima Beans: Uniform in size, shape and color. Also, must be free from blemishes.

Peas: Smooth, clean, free from defects. Uniform, deep green pods, and well filled. Avoid over maturity as indicated by yellowing of the pods or toughness and bitterness of the peas.

Cherry Tomatoes: Uniform in size, shape and nice cherry red color. Firm, free from cracks, disease, insects, and mechanical injury. Remove stem. Finally, don’t forget to exhibit with stem ends down.

In conclusion, you need 12 matched specimens evenly on a small clean paper plate. Furthermore, the veggies should be clean and attractive on the plate.

Medium Vegetables (5 Specimens)

Cucumbers: Firm Specimens. Dark green color. Uniform length and size. Avoid pointed or uneven specimens. Specimens may be washed but do not wax or oil.

Peppers: Deep in color. Fresh, firm, symmetrical. Traces of red color not desirable unless the peppers are uniformly red in color. Number of lobes should be uniform. Trim stems 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Exhibit with the stem end down.

Hot Peppers: True to type. Color uniform. Also, good condition, not wilted. Trim stems 1/2 to 1/4 inch.

Okra: Harvest when half grown (about 2-3 pods). Woody pods are overmature. Uniform in size, shape, and color. Leave stems on – trim to 1/2 inch with stems trimmed evenly.

Tomatoes: Select for varietal type, size, color, and maturity. Firm, free from cracks, disease, insect, and mechanical injury. Remove stem when exhibiting. Do not get overripe or soft specimens. Exhibit with stem ends down.

Sweet Corn: Exhibit with husks on (Check with your county fair book or state guide to determine). Freshness is necessary. Well-filled kernels and filled to the top of the ear. Leave a few loose leaves at the top of the ear. Finally, trim the base of the ears evenly to the base of the last outer leaf.

In conclusion, medium vegetables are true to type, gently cleaned and similar in type and kind. Same goes to medium root veggies.

Medium Root Vegetables (5 Specimens)

Beets: Uniform in size and color. Smooth and free from side roots. Medium to small size preferred; 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Tops trimmed to 1 – 3 inches, about 2 inches preferred. Trim tops evenly.

Carrots: Uniform in size, shape, and color. Smooth, fresh and clean. Typical of type. Tops trimmed to 1 1/2 inches. Trim tops evenly and cut should be fresh. Avoid carrots with green discoloration at the top. Remove all side or hair roots. Trim taproots evenly.

Potatoes: Show potatoes should be uniform specimens in size, shape, color. Free from skin defects. Free from insect and mechanical injury. Clean (Do not scratch or remove skin). Typical of variety. Do not ehibit sunburned or greened potatoes.

Radishes: Medium size, smooth, firm and crisp. Not pithy. Uniform in color and bright. Typical of variety. Leaves left on (but carefully remove yellowed leaves). Wash thoroughly.

Sweet Potatoes: Specimens should be uniform and free from disease, insect or mechanical damage. Should be typical of variety. Diameter should not be less than 2 inches or more than 3 1/2 inches. Length should be 2.5 to 3 times the diameter. Gently wash specimens to remove dirt. Remove all “hair” roots and do not trim the ends of the specimens.

Onions: Uniform, mature, solid and bright. Neck small and well cured or dry. Smooth, clean with outside skin intact – Do Not Peel. Color typical of variety. Tops trimmed 1/2 to 1 inch above bulbs. Roots neatly trimmed 1/3 to 1/4 inch below bulb.

Turnips: Smaller sizes are generally most desirable. Uniform with bright color. Clean and free from side roots and blemishes. Trim tops 1 to 3 inches.

Vegetable Exhibitor Guide

Large Vegetables (1 Specimen)

First of all, the following are large head or leafy vegetables grown above the ground.

Broccoli: Bottom of broccoli head should be trimmed evenly and fresh. The head should be compact, dense, and free from insect or disease blemishes. Also, avoid heads with yellowing or florets beginning to open.

Cauliflower: Outer green leaves trimmed 1/2 to 1 inch above curds or head. Head should be white, solid uniform, smooth, and close flowered. Avoid heads with brownish discoloration, looseness, or small leaves in the head.

Lettuce Head: Crisp, good color and firm. Removed damaged outside leaves. Medium sized head. Trim stems evenly at the base of the outer leaves remaining on the head.

Spinach: Remove dried, yellowed, or wilted leaves. Remove root system just below bottom leaves. Leaves should be crisp, deep green, and free from blemishes and dirt.

Swiss Chard: Leaf blades should be uniform in color, crisp with bright tender, fleshy leaf stalks. One plant or leaves from one plant makes an exhibit.

Cabbage: Head should be solid and dense. Remove only outer leaves that are diseased or damaged. Furthermore, allow one or two of the dark green “wrapper leaves” to remain on the head. Finally, the stem should be evenly trimmed at the base of the last leaves left on the head.

Large Vegetables (1 Speciman)

Finally, these are large vegetables that are firm and solid objects. So, one speciman can be exhibited on one large paper plate.

Pumpkin: Typical of variety. Uniform of color and shape and symmetrical in shape (avoid pumpkins with a distinct flat side). Free from blemishes and dirt. Trim stem evenly 1 – 3 inches. Don’t attempt to carry pumpkins by the stem.

Eggplant: Fresh, not wilted or soft. Wipe with moist cloth. Uniform color, bright, deep and shiny. Also, must be heavy, firm and free from blemishes. Avoid bronze discoloration.

Summer Squash (Zucchini, Yellow Crookneck or Straightneck): Specimens must be uniform in size, shape and color. Stems should be attached and trimmed 1/2 to 1 inch. Specimens should be immature or rind should not be tough or hard. Also, specimens 6 to 9 inches long are preferred. True to variety type and free from blemishes and dirt.

Winter Squash (Acorn, Hubbard, Butternut, Spaghetti): Specimens should be uniform in size, shape and color. Stems should be trimmed 1/2 to 2 inches. Specimens should be mature or rind should be hard and firm. True to variety type and free from blemishes and dirt.

Vegetable Exhibitor Guide

Garden Boxes & Displays

Then, another way to exhibit a variety of vegetables is to put together a garden box or display. Check your county fair book for a guide. Typically, boxes should include one large vegetable, 2 – 3 medium vegetable varieties and 3 – 5 small vegetable varieties.

Finally, the exhibits should fit together and make the display look appealing and colorful. The individual specimens should meet the above guidelines for display. The arrangement, artistic qualities and showmanship of the display should stand out above the competition.

So, follow the vegetable exhibitor guide guidelines above for how to present each veggie variety. Then, prepare the display until it looks like the perfect exhibit to showcase your best exhibits.

Why Exhibit Vegetables?

Seems like a simple question most gardeners ask. Hence, most gardeners who ask that question do not exhibit because they can’t find the answers.

So, why should anyone go to all this work to exhibit vegetables? What’s the big deal? And why should YOU exhibit your vegetables when you can just eat them?

First of all, let’s look at how exhibition got started in the first place.

Well, back in the day, local growers and home gardeners used to boast to each other about their best vegetables. They would brag to one another about growing the biggest potatoes or the brightest tomatoes.

They decided to actually bring their best together for someone to actually judge who was the best. Official guidelines were written to follow specifically.

So, why not continue the tradition. There are so many home gardeners, including urban growers. Nowadays, you don’t have to have a lot of land to grow veggies. Just do your thing and exhibit your best.

Furthermore, exhibiting is so much fun. Chasing the champion ribbons is exciting and addicting. And the learning that goes along with it is so much more positive.

In conclusion, exhibiting vegetables in the end may or may not be for you. Yet, it sure doesn’t hurt to try new things. Plus, there are prizes for the winners along with being able to take your exhibit home following the fair.

Let’s talk about the vegetable judging placing classes you will face as part of this vegetable exhibitor guide.

So, What Do Those Ribbons Mean

First of all, if you follow the showing vegetables tips listed above and exhibit quality vegetables, you might receive a ribbon!

So, those ribbons. They can be so very confusing. Yet, what do they mean?

Well, it mainly depends on where you’re are located. Each county/state could have a different ribbon and prize system in place. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to check with your local office or superintendent about what the prizes are for the horticulture competition.

Almost typically, there are 1st (Blue), 2nd (Red), and 3rd (White) places in each variety class. So, a blue ribbon vegetable should be excellent quality while a red ribbon is good quality and a white finish is ok quality.

And sometimes, there will be three excellent exhibits. The judge will need to really look hard and heavy at each one to really nit pick to choose one over another.

Then, the 1st places from each class will all come together to be chosen a Champion and Reserve Champion.

In conclusion, only one vegetable can win the class. And only one vegetable can win the show. And, all this will all be determined by a knowledgeable judge who has studied the vegetable exhibitor guide in depth.

About the Judge

Consequently, the judge has proper guidelines for vegetable judging placing classes as well. The vegetable exhibitor guide guidelines come straight from your County Fair Book. So, it’s important that you read those guidelines as well.

So, the judge will be following these guidelines pertaining to condition, quality, uniformity, variety traits and size of all vegetables. He/she will be comparing veggies in each class together to pick the absolute best for the blue ribbon.

Therefore, following those universal guidelines from your county fair book.  Your fair book will include showing vegetable tips that will really help you to showcase your best vegetables.

But the most important part of the vegetable exhibitor guide is to just have fun.

Vegetable Exhibitor Guide

Lighten Up and Have Fun

Finally, exhibiting veggies should be fun. No one should stress about exhibiting veggies.

Especially with this vegetable exhibitor guide to help you along. So, use this vegetable exhibitor guide as a start to have an idea of what you need to do to get certain vegetables ready for exhibition. Then, check with your own county/state guide. Follow your county guide directly.

So, now you have your prize winning vegetables. Consequently, you have the knowledge from the vegetable exhibitor guide. What else is holding you back from exhibiting your best?

[clickToTweet tweet=”Go forth and have fun as a vegetable county fair exhibitor! ” quote=”Go forth and have fun as a vegetable county fair exhibitor! ” theme=”style3″]

~ Much Love ~



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