STARKVILLE — It’s been a great summer for growers of vegetables and fruits, and it promises to produce a bumper crop of competitors in the Agricultural Building at the Orono Fair next week.
Ron Robinson, chairperson of the Vegetables & Fruit Class, said he is hoping for another strong year of entries. “I figure we’ll be as good as last year, if not better,” he said. “I think we’ve got better crops this year.”
He noted that the Vegetables & Fruit committee placed an ad in the Orono Times in May, reminding local growers to “think ahead and grow for the Fair.” This is Robinson’s fourth year as chairperson of the class, which has 84 categories of vegetables and fruit — from apples to zucchini – in which contestants can enter their produce.
“We’re looking for all the entries we can get. It’s just a fun thing. It’s no big competition,” he said Friday, from his farm in Starkville (north of Newtonville). “We’ve had perfect weather this year.”
However, the favourable growing conditions have also created a strong crop of weeds, noted Robinson. “It’s been great weather, but the trouble is the weeds grew well too. Everything is really healthy except if it’s been shaded by weeds,” he said. “Golden Rod is terrible this year.”
He said the committee hopes to get a few record-breakers in such categories as largest pumpkin or squash, largest sunflower head, tallest sunflower stalk, largest zucchini, or heaviest beet, carrot, onion and tomato. “I would think it’s almost certain to be a good year for the vegetables to be large,” he said.
Robinson, who operates a mixed grain and beef farm, also grows beans, corn, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, tomatoes and zucchini. He said he plans to enter a number of the classes himself, noting he has a friendly competition with Ron Locke of Newcastle to see who can grow the tallest sunflower.
In addition to the adult classes for vegetables, apples and pears, there are also Junior Exhibitor classes (17 and under). “Last year was our biggest for junior entries, and we’re hoping to get that again this year,” said Robinson. His 10-year-old granddaughter Alycia Robinson said she plans to enter a number of the junior classes.
Alycia has her own separate vegetable garden next to her grandfather’s vegetable patch, where she grows potatoes, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, tomatoes, and zucchini. And since the class for the tallest sunflower stalk is open to all ages, she just might give her grandfather and Mr. Locke more competition than they imagined.
For more information on the Vegetable & Fruit Class, go to www.oronofair.com. The Orono Fair runs from September 9-12 at the Orono Fairgrounds.