Thursday, April 21, 2011

Farm, Fresh, Fun! ...getting ready to celebrate Earth Day!

As we approach Earth Day I wanted to ask you this question:

Did you know that every day on most farms and ranches is a celebration of EARTH day? 

Farmers and ranchers have a vested interest in being good stewards or caretakers of the chunk of earth that they manage. They need to carefully manage and restore this resource in order to continue to grow food and produce products that help keep your family fed and clothed!

In our area of the world there is a whole new breed of farmers that are starting to take this process into their own hands, and in their backyards!  Urban farming or gardening is a huge trend in the bay area and Alameda County is a mecca for urban farmers! 

That is why we are celebrating this movement with our Farm Fresh Fun theme this year and we will share more of this as we get closer to fair. The Alameda County Fair is dedicated to helping promote Agriculture and how important it is to the fabric of our society. We have thousands of entries that are linked to Agriculture in some way that are displayed at the fair each year, as well as many special exhibits that highlight how it is an everyday part of our lives.

You are going to hear a lot more about our Farm Fresh Fun theme and all the activities at the fair celebrating this urban farming trend, but today I wanted to share with you an overview of some of the traditional Agriculture programs we highlight at the Alameda County Fair:

  • AgVenture Park (Ag-themed exhibits galore! )
  • Wine Education Exhibit (new Special Program introduced last year)
  • Agriculture Feature Booths & Exhibits (located in the Agriculture Bldg)
  • and thousands of Agriculture Competitive Exhibits throughout the fairgrounds such as:

AgVenture Park
This agricultural themed area is located in the Red Gate area, near the livestock barn and adjacent to many of the current agriculture exhibits, such as the Livestock and Small Animal, as well as the Blacksmith shop, Antique Tractors, and Agriculture & Gardening exhibits.

Exhibits & attractions located within AgVenture Park include:

Ag-Venture Land Educational Kids’ Area
This exhibit featured agricultural themed educational stations with several hands-on, interactive activities for children.  This unique attraction is produced for us by the Great American Animal Entertainment Company and providing a clean and engaging area for families to try their hand at cow & goat milking, pony saddling, and scarecrow making.  There are “sand boxes” with corn and beans for kids to play, and toy pedal tractors to drive.  Educational material on wool and animal facts are geared towards small children, and a craft station eis also available.

Kids Pedal Tractor Pull
This popular exhibit allows kids to test their strength and ability to pull a small sled with a small tractor powered by their own two feet!  Onlookers and proud families cheer on their little farmer during  each heat, attracting attention and bringing excitement to the area when this show happens several times each day.

Great American Petting Zoo:
The Great American Petting Zoo providesa wide variety of animals including llamas, pygmy goats, sheep, potbellied pigs, chickens, donkeys, and call ducks in their petting zoo.  The friendly trained staff provides animal husbandry information, answers questions, and insures the safety of both the animals and the patrons visiting the exhibit. The public is invited to hand feed and interact with animals to create a memorable animal encounter at the fair, and inspire participants to learn more food production food, and the care of animals.

Barn Tours
The company Barn Tours leads small tours of fairgoers throughout the livestock exhibits and taught them about all the species of livestock on display in the livestock barns, small animal barns, and the Barnyard Exhibit.  In addition, they explain how animals are judged at the fair. They also presented a short overview about the evaluation process and allowed fairgoers a chance to “be the judge” by applying the information they learned to a sample of animals in the exhibit areas

Pig Races
This attraction is close to The Barnyard livestock birthing exhibit.  At the pig races, fairgoers are entertained by the various heats of pigs competing at a small racetrack, while the coordinator teaches the crowd about pigs and how they are a part of our everyday lives.  It is an exciting event for the entire family.  After the pig races performance concludes each of its 3 daily shows, the crowd is encouraged to wander next door to The Barnyard exhibit.

The Barnyard
During the 17-day fair, there are two “change over” days when livestock shows are completed, and livestock exhibitors take animals home, and bring new stock in for exhibition, leaving the livestock barns void of animals. Several years ago, Fair Staff decided to create a special exhibit to teach our mostly urban  fairgoers the importance and value of livestock production, as well as filling this void during the barn changeovers.

The Barnyard exhibit is a showcase for livestock production, which is consistently clean, attractive, and filled with a variety of farm animals at all times. It offers educational livestock displays, knowledgeable staff to answer questions about the animals, and several interactive agriculture themed activities for children.  Housed in a 60' x 40' tent located in the Red Gate area, this livestock-birthing exhibit is easily one of the fair’s most popular attractions.

Experiencing the miracle of birth is a fantastic draw for fairgoers, and a once in a lifetime experience for many non-agriculture  types. Last year on display inside the Barnyard, was a pregnant Maine Anjou cow which gave birth to a calf during the fair.  At the center of the exhibit, two Yorkshire sows, each with a litter of piglets, provided the main attraction this year. 

Other Fair Sponsored Agricultural Exhibits:

Grape & Wine themed Agriculture Building (new 2010 exhibit):
In addition to the hundreds of competitive entries entered into divisions for agriculture feature booths, potted plants, and cut flowers, the Ag Building housed a brand new educational exhibit featuring the wine grape commodity, which is Alameda County’s largest Agriculture commodity, in terms of gross sales. Fair staff introduced this special commodity theme into our Ag Building, with the intent of creating new educational opportunities and activities, as well
as finding a new way to highlight our Amateur Wine and Best of the Bay Wine Competition entries.  Staff created a unique display of the wine bottles entered, by using black tradeshow draping, some staging risers, dozens of oak wine barrels, hundreds of wine corks, and lush Boston ferns!

Professional Landscape Gardens:
One of the highlights for Fair goers is the Fair’s professional gardens display. Located in the center of the fairgrounds, twelve professional gardeners each landscape a garden ranging in size from 1,800 square feet to 4,000 square feet based of the current year’s Fair theme.

The gardens showcase common physical elements in California yards so that the gardening public may utilize some of the designs in their own backyards. The competition awards landscape professionals who utilize creative designs, interesting materials, and eco-friendly methods to achieve beautiful and professional landscape displays.

To educate the public, the Fair requires gardeners to identify and label plants within 10 feet of walkways with plant’s common names.  In the midst of these gardens, the Fair has an information booth staffed with volunteers to answer questions and assist the public with garden information. 

Wine & Beer Garden:
Located in the center of the fairgrounds, adjacent to the Professional Landscape Gardens, and the Ag & Wine Education Buildings,  the Wine and Beer Garden features wines entered into the Best of the Bay Wine Competition & Zin Challenge, as well as several wines from the popular Livermore Valley Wine growing region.   

In addition to the display of wine entries next door inside the newly designed  Wine Education Exhibit, the wine competition is also heavily promoted during the fair with the addition of a Best of the Bay Wine Competition & Zin Challenge Awards Reception and Wine Tasting event. This year the gala is held in the Wine & Beer Garden, offering attendees a chance to view the presentation of the medals won by the wineries, and taste the gold medal wines poured by winemakers during the event.

WHEW! That is a WHOLE lot of Agriculture! 
We will share more about what is happening this year as we GROW closer to the fair! 

Agriculture Building:
·        Agriculture Feature Display Booths
·        Beekeeping - Honey production
·        Bay Area Brew Off – Homebrew Competition
·        Potted Plants
·        Cut Flowers & Floral Arrangements
·        Garden Produce
·        Wool & Fiber Fleece Show

Wine Education Building:
·        Homemade Wine Competition
·        Best of the Bay Wine Competition & Zin Challenge

Landscape Gardens:
·        Professional Gardens & Design
·        Amateur Gardens
·        Jr. Professional Gardens

Amador Pavilion:
·        Breeding Beef (open & youth)
·        Breeding Sheep (open, youth, wool & meat divisions)
·        Dairy Cattle (open & youth)
·        Dairy Goats (youth)
·        Angora Goats
·        Boer Meat Goats
·        Market Beef
·        Market Sheep
·        Market Goats
·        Market Swine
·        Livestock and Small Animal Showmanship classes
·        Livestock Skill-a-thon
·        Livestock judging competition

Small Animal Barn:
·        Small Animal Champion Exhibitor competition
·        Poultry Show (open, youth, breeding & meat production)
·        Rabbit Show (open, youth, breeding & meat production)
·        Small Animal Master Showmanship

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Almost ready to release the BOOK!

Busily finishing crossing the T's and dotting the I's and we are just about ready to roll out a new "user friendly" version of our Entry Guide.  This gigantic collection of contests and competitions will be all listed together on the Alameda County Fair website where you can browse the hundreds of categories offered and find just the right ones to enter.  Then you can show off your  personal creations, passions, or pursuits to the thousands of fairgoers that attend the Alameda County Fair each summer, and win prizes and the envy of all your neighbors and friends! 

This year our Competitive Exhibits Department is celebrating urban farmers everywhere...with our FARM FRESH FUN! will be hearing more about this in upcoming blog posts. We can't wait to see what you enter this year!