Highlights of the Maryland State Fair
Published in the August 31, 2019, edition of Lancaster Farming
By Secretary Joe Bartenfelder
Greetings from the Maryland State Fair! It seems hard to believe, but we are getting ready to wrap-up another outstanding installment of what we like to refer to as the “11 Best Days of Summer.” In its 138th year, the 2019 Maryland State Fair’s motto is “More than a fair, we’re a culture.” I could not agree more. For many of us in Maryland’s farm communities, fairs and shows present a unique opportunity to share and celebrate our rural culture with folks from the more urban and suburban parts of the state.
I am proud to say our culture has been on full display throughout this week.
On the fair’s opening night I attended the 2019 Miss Maryland Agriculture contest, where several impressive young women competed for the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for Maryland agriculture. Each contestant shared their passion and dedication for farming, which is a great credit to the future of our industry. While there were many well-deserving contestants, I want to congratulate our new Miss Maryland Agriculture, Melyn Rhodes of Queen Anne’s County.
On Thursday, I was honored to celebrate Agriculture Day at the State Fair with Governor Larry Hogan. After a luncheon with industry leaders and various state and local elected officials, we embarked on a walking tour of the fairgrounds, and visited with fairgoers, exhibitors, and the many young people participating in 4-H and FFA activities. It really was a crash course in the many wonderful things our state has to offer.
We made a stop at the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s exhibit in the Cow Palace that features a variety of information and daily programming aimed at educating the public on the many vital programs housed within our department. Throughout the week, we hosted activities that highlight our weights and measure program, the state chemist section, resource conservation, and much more.
Governor Hogan and I wrapped up our afternoon at the fair as judges for the Undeniably Dairy Shake-Off, a milkshake contest featuring teams of local celebrities—it was tough work, but someone had to do it. This was a great way for everyone to have a little fun while promoting our hardworking Maryland dairy farmers.
As each generation grows a little further removed from the farm, it is important that we take advantage of opportunities like this to educate the public and advocate for Maryland agriculture. In the age of social media, information travels further and faster than ever before—whether it is accurate or not. Events like the State Fair are a great time to engage our fellow Marylanders who may be unfamiliar with farming, or misinformed about the industry, and give them a firsthand look at the hard work we do, day in and day out, to provide food and fiber for people throughout the state and beyond.
As the fair draws to a close, and kids head back to school, I encourage you all to remain vocal and engaged when talking about the accomplishments of Maryland agriculture. It is important for us to tell our story, and to educate future generations of farmers and agriculture professionals.