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Agriculture features at State Fair to include animals, crops—and pizza?

Agriculture will be everywhere when the State Fair of Virginia runs from September 28-October 7 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County.

Fairgoers will see foods prepared with Virginia peanuts, witness baby chicks hatching, admire prize-winning animals and crops, marvel at giant watermelons and pumpkins, try their hands at milking a dairy cow and learn about different breeds of horses. They also will be able to view a recently planted pizza.

A new feature, Papa John’s Pizza Garden, is a round raised-bed installation with plants involved in pizza preparation. Those include tomatoes, peppers, garlic and herbs. Educational materials about the farm origins of pizza ingredients also will be shared with visitors.

“We are all about sharing agriculture with the public and we’re especially happy to show people how agriculture touches their everyday lives,” said executive director Marlene Jolliffe. “We are in a unique position to showcase the work and expertise of Virginia’s farmers in a fun and educational setting.”

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, as well as other farm animals and the iconic baby duck slide.

The Virginia Horse Industry Board will host an exhibit of horse breeds and the Southland Dairy Farmers Center will feature a milking parlor, dairy calf births and opportunities for fairgoers to hand-milk cows.

Nearby, in addition to the Pizza Garden, 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 competition weigh-ins will take place at noon on September 29 in the Blue Ribbon Tent in Harvest Landing. The Horticulture Pavilion, also in Harvest Landing, will showcase entries in various crop competitions. Additionally, it will include a “Farmer for a Day” exhibit that allows young fairgoers to “harvest” apples and gather eggs in farm-like surroundings.

Youth and open livestock competitions and a variety of equine events will be held throughout the fair in the Livestock Loop on the south side of Route 30. New this year will be the American Milking Devon Mid-Atlantic Regional Show September 29 and 30 and an open sheep competition October 1 and 2. Milking Devon cattle first arrived in North America from England in the 1620s. Devon cows’ milk is prized for making butter and cheese.

Virginia agricultural commodities will be featured in culinary competitions as well. State-level finalists in the Virginia Egg Council’s Berry Delicious contest will prepare dishes that include eggs and berries. The Virginia Peanut Growers Association will sponsor a tailgate recipe contest for adults and a peanut butter sandwich contest for youth.

Returning to the fair’s Thrill Pit for a second year, the Virginia Loggers Association will demonstrate how professional loggers move, load and unload cut trees.

At the Virginia Farm Bureau booth in the Meadow Pavilion, fairgoers can use virtual reality glasses to experience farm surroundings close-up.

Farm-fresh 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.

Ticket information and a fair schedule are available at StateFairVa.org.

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