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Agriculture has a large presence at the State Fair

state fair of virginiaAgriculture touches our everyday lives, and it also will play a significant role at the State Fair of Virginia, which will run Sept. 27 through Oct. 6.

Fairgoers can walk through gorgeous gardens, view baby chicks hatching, admire prize-winning animals and crops, marvel at giant watermelons and pumpkins, try their hands at milking a cow and watch youth and adults take part in livestock animal competitions.

“A big part of our mission at the State Fair of Virginia is to showcase agriculture and show how it impacts our daily lives,” said Marlene Jolliffe, the fair’s executive director. “Agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry, with an economic impact of $70 billion annually. That’s why it’s so important to showcase it at the fair.”

Here’s what’s happening in the fair’s Harvest Landing area:

  • The ever-popular Young MacDonald’s Farm exhibit, presented by Farm Credit, will feature sheep, pigs and beef cattle and the iconic chick incubator and baby duck slide. The Southland Dairy Farmers Center will feature a milking parlordairy calf birthsand opportunities for fairgoers to hand-milk cows.
  • Nearby will be the Papa John’s Pizza Garden, where visitors can see how ingredients used to make tasty pizza pies are grown. There also will be an urban garden exhibit with raised beds, and a plot of Virginia row crops like corn, soybeans, peanuts, cotton and tobacco.
  • The giant watermelon and giant pumpkin weigh-off will take place at noon on Sept. 28 in the Blue Ribbon Tent.
  • The Horticulture Pavilion will showcase entries in various crop competitions. Additionally, the pavilion will include a “Farmer for a Day” exhibit that allows young fairgoers to “harvest” apples and gather eggs in farm-like surroundings.
  • New this year is a Best Tasting Tomato Contest on Sept. 28 that will feature Richmond meteorologist Nikki-Dee Ray as the guest judge! There also will be a corn creation competition for youth, in which participants can decorate an ear of corn, similar to the Mr. Potato Head competition. Entries in both competitions will be on display in the Horticulture Pavilion.

“One of our goals is to highlight achievements of the state’s youth—their agricultural achievements as well as other skills through our competitions,” Jolliffe said. “We are proud of the fact that we had 1,251 4-H and FFA competitors last year.”

Livestock competitions can be found on Livestock Loop on the south side of state Route 30, including:

  • Youth and open livestock competitions and equine events such as a miniature horse show, youth barrel racing, Northeast Virginia dressage competition and a draft horse and mule show and pull.
  • The American Milking Devon Mid-Atlantic Regional Show returns on Sept. 30. Milking Devon cattle first arrived in North America from England in the 1620s. Devon cows’ milk is prized for making butter and cheese.
  • Other livestock competitions include youth and open dairy cattle, beef cattle, dairy goat and sheep competitions, as well as youth meat goat and swine competitions. Last year’s fair drew 182 entries in the open and youth beef competitions, 112 meat goats and 163 entries in the sheep division.

Virginia agricultural commodities will be featured in culinary competitions as well.

  • The Virginia Peanut Growers Association will sponsor an Asian-inspired peanut recipecontest for adults and a peanut butter bar cookie contest for youth.
  • House Autry will present a Fried Green Tomato Contest on Sept. 28. Cooking begins at 1 p.m., and judging will take place at 1:30.

Forestry will get a turn in the spotlight as well. Returning to the fair’s Sunbelt Rentals’ Thrill Pit for a third year, the Virginia Loggers Association will demonstrate how professional loggers move, load and unload cut trees. Demonstrations will take place Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

At Virginia Farm Bureau’s booth in the Meadow Pavilion, fairgoers can use virtual reality glasses to experience farm surroundings up close. There also will be an outdoor display that features a corn box for children and the opportunity to explore a tractor!

Local foods will be available for purchase from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the State Fair farmers market outside the Ticket Plaza.

Returning this year are Virginia’s Finest Sundays, which will provide fairgoers with an opportunity to purchase local, Virginia-made foods from vendors, many of which feature Virginia agricultural commodities.

The 2019 State Fair of Virginia will run from Sept. 27 through Oct. 6. Information is available at

The State Fair is held each fall at its permanent home at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County and attracts 250,000 fairgoers. The event celebrates the best of Virginia’s past, present and future through scholarship initiatives, creative programming and a focus on the commonwealth’s agriculture and natural resources industries.