A Celebration Of Kaua‘i Farmers

The Kaua‘i County Farm Fair, held Aug. 23-26 this year, is perhaps the largest annual event on Kaua‘i. Families enjoyed rides, a 4-H petting zoo, watermelonand poi-eating contests, and food vendors. Honey and taro tastings, along with live music, carnival lights and hula shows, put childhood grins on adult faces. Local growers competed for ribbons and money at the Fruit and Vegetable Show.

“We want to use this opportunity, not only to enjoy all of the rides and games and the aloha that happens at a county farm fair,” says Melissa McFerrin, executive administrator for Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau, “but also to take a moment to see what’s growing and what’s happening here with our farmers.”

Big, glossy photos of farmers and produce lined a wall behind two 30-foot tables laden with fruit and vegetables. Gorgeous taro, bamboo shoots, young ginger, mangos and peppers were crowded next to tomatoes, avocados, squash and herbs. Although each hoped to stand apart, the mounds of voluptuous produce inspired one to cook.

“Farmers markets around the United States are growing because people are more aware of what they’re eating and where it comes from,” says McFerrin. “They are interested in what is grown and raised in their backyard. We have people who attend this event because they want to see what grows in Kauai’s backyard.”

“Farming Our Future” was this year’s theme, and keiki did more than show their lamb and goats in the 4-H arena. “The kids are the future,” says McFerrin.

“Along with the Ferris Wheel and merry-go-round, we want to get agriculture on our kids’ radar.”

Children from the Future Farmers of America helped judge the Fruit and Vegetable Show. Criteria included uniformity in color, shape and size, and free from defects, blemishes, injuries, insects or disease.

A group method of judging, also known as the Danish system, evaluated entries based on the criteria and enabled several of the same entry to receive a blue ribbon. The entries were arranged into groups for recognition of their achievement based on how close the exhibit met the pre-established standards. All exhibits in this approach were judged in comparison with a standard, as opposed to comparison with other exhibits in a class.

If produce meets all criteria, it’s awarded a blue ribbon and $5. Red ribbons receive $3 and white, $2. Both Best in Show-Fruit, and Best in Show-Vegetable receive $20. A special contest for one bunch of 12 radish with leaves awards $20 for first place, $10 for second and $5 for third. Once everything is tallied up, there are overall, single item Best in Show fruit and vegetable winners.

George Mukai received Best in Show-Fruit for his breadfruit, and Gary Ueunten won Best in Show-Vegetable for his green onions.

Kaua‘i Kunana Dairy received the most points as well as first place for its purple radish. In the end, the Wooton family won a total of $393. George Mukai placed second and won $276, while Gary Ueunten came in third and won $98.

“During the fair, we have different agricultural things going on,” explains McFerrin. “Our Kaua‘i Grown booth features different farmers and value-added products that use more than 50 percent Kaua‘i-grown ingredients.

“To promote local agriculture, Times/Big Save made plates with Kaua‘i Shrimp and Kaneshiro Pork. The more companies, community members and teachers who get involved with our farmers, the more we increase interest in local agriculture. As Jerry Ornellas, the incoming president of our farm bureau, says, “If you eat, you’re involved in agriculture.”

Marta Lane is a freelance food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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