I was pleased this week to make a return visit to the California State Fair, which is now 160 years old and still going strong as a vibrant destination and showplace for the best that California has to offer. From the very beginning, farming was a major part of the fair, and I am proud to say that this tradition is as robust as ever.
While farming at the State Fair has been faithfully represented by generations of 4-H and FFA youth showing off their prized animals, there is also an actual working farm on the grounds – three acres on which 17 different crops are grown.
“The Farm,” as it is known, is careful to keep track of current changes in food and farming and then profile them in some of its exhibits. For example, there is the “Dirt to Dish” outdoor kitchen, featuring chefs preparing dishes using produce from The Farm to show how quick and easy it can be to prepare healthy, nutritious meals with fresh ingredients. There is also an urban farming exhibit, showcasing container gardening, edible landscapes and various methods of growing produce in limited space. This entire area is a big draw for families visiting the State Fair, and I’m encouraged by the ag education opportunities it provides. The Farm, like all farming and ranching, requires a lot of work and the partnership Farm manager Nancy Koch and her team has created with students and faculty at American River College to keep everything going is impressive!
One of my favorite features about The Farm is its partnership with food banks. Last year, it donated more than 8,360 pounds of fresh produce to two local food banks. This year, that commitment continues, with hundreds of pounds already donated and many, many more to come with harvest season ahead for a number of crops.
The Farm is just a small part of this wonderful fair. If you haven’t visited this year, I hope you will. If you have already been, well, why not go back? There are plenty of amazing things to see.