13 - Agriculture Horticulture Building
Click Image for a Larger VersionLearning about Fruits and Vegetables Text
Learning about Fruits and Vegetables
“I like to see the farm dudes bringing in their crops because my dad was a farmer, I lived on a farm and I know how proud you are; that feeling of growing this. ”
For over a century, agricultural marvels were displayed in various buildings scattered around the fairgrounds. Today they are all grouped together here in the Agriculture Horticulture Building…completed in 1947.
Farmers have always loved to show off their best fruits and vegetables, for personal satisfaction and pure love of competition. Fairgoers can learn a thing or two, as well...
“It’s kind of nice to hear how you actually judge a cob of corn. It’s best if they are straight lined instead of choppy and zig zaggy. That’s kind of what they are looking for. ”
Judges in the fruit categories have specific criteria too.
“The amateur fruit grower entering Haralson apples, let’s say would enter six and that’s called a “plate.” They are looking for size and color and consistency – free from blemishes. On rare occasion they’ll ask for a knife and cut a piece out of the apple. But as soon as you do that you can’t leave that fruit out on display anymore because it spoils pretty quickly.”
Who would imagine all the things fairgoers can learn about corn or apples?
“I think that speaks to a larger sort of fascination with the AgHort building just that there are all these farmers and we are such an agricultural state. In my day to day life as a very urban individual I sometimes forget there is so many people out there doing the business of growing vegetables...”
Bees and Honey
“It’s like one of the most beautiful grocery store displays you can imagine where you find rows and rows of honey stacked and lining this kind of semicircular display area and it’s always impressive to me to see how many people just are kind of enthralled by the many varieties and shades of honey that are made here in the state of Minnesota.”
Beekeeping displays at the State Fair go all the way back to the early 1900s. Minnesota has long been at the forefront of beekeeping. When you explore the bee exhibits, you can’t miss the honey displays. Hard to imagine how judges distinguish one jar from another.
“Some of the criteria the judges are using are the color, the clarity, the moisture content. And, flavor. ”
Along with displays of honey, visitors have a chance to see live bee shows and demonstrations.
“Someone gets in a screened-in building with the bee suit on, and they discuss the different parts of the bee hive while the bees are flying around.”
Of course honey tastes good, too! Today’s fairgoers can buy pure honey or try the honey ice cream or honey lemonade.
“My step dad who’s English came to visit last year and we took him to the fair. For the most part he looked widely uncomfortable. He wore his sport coat which is such an Englishman thing to do. But he loved the honey ice cream. ”
Narrator: Doesn’t that sound good right about now?
What’s Crop Art?
“Crop art is basically Elmer’s glue, seeds, hunched over a board…that doesn’t sound too appealing but it’s really fun. I like the tactile sense of it – the feel of the seeds. It’s meditative. You sit down and you’re working and all of sudden three hours have passed.”
The state fair takes pride in tradition and promotes fresh new ideas. It was in the 1960s that the state’s agricultural bounty was first displayed in a new way –“Crop Art!” Artists create mosaics out of seeds such as barley, oat, corn, or even what the rule book calls processed grains, like cream of wheat or corn meal. Lillian Colton was a Crop Art legend.
“I’ve been showing at the state fair since 1966…I decided I could probably make a picture so I made a grouse and then later on I started doing portraits….”
While Lillian, the grand dame of Crop art, has since passed away, she handed down her love of crop art to thousands of fairgoers and encouraged everyone to give it try. And try they have… with some interesting results!
“What fascinates me about Crop Art, is you will always see some kind of political commentary, or current events, some things that happened really recently prior to the Fair. And I’ve always wondered how did they make that on time, because that just happened a couple weeks ago, and here it is in Crop Art.”
So while a portrait full of political satire might point toward today’s culture, the artist’s materials still reflect our agrarian roots.
Crop art continues to evolve. In fact, entries to the competition no longer come from just Minnesota. In 2009, for example, the first international entry in the “out-of-state” category—a portrait called “African Girl”—was shipped all the way from Zambia! The artist created the portrait out of toasted millet seed, a brand-new technique, and was awarded $40 and a plaque.
It is truly a growing art form, with more than 150 entries submitted to the competition each year.
Name the next Apple
If you could name a new Minnesota apple, what would it be called?