Overhe(a)rd: Screenhouses and the State of State Fairs

( Farm Journal's PORK )

State Fairs are more than just a time for family, friends and celebration. They’re also a place where young people learn about some of the career paths and opportunities in agriculture. In this episode, we’ll explore the current state of state fairs. 

Have you he(a)rd: The latest news in America’s Conservation Ag Movement 
Screenhouses are helping Hawaiian growers protect their crops from pests and reduce insecticide use. 

“This issue started with farmers dealing with fruit flies, also called melon flies, which are very problematic to cucurbit crop production,” Dr. Wang says. Cucurbits are a family of plants that include cucumbers, melons and other gourds. 

At night the fruit flies crawl inside the fruit and lay eggs. Then the eggs hatch and the maggots grow inside cucumber. Over the years fruit flies have developed resistance to the bait.

Listen to the story of how Hawaiian growers are using innovation below. 

The main dish
No one can say the state fairs were blindsided by COVID-19 like the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo or the Oklahoma Youth Expo in March. Fair organizers had a chance to see COVID-19 coming – but piecing the puzzle together to find a solution has looked different for every state fair and event that has had to make the hard decision to cancel or move forward, said guest host Jennifer Shike, Editor of Farm Journal’s PORK.

Spencer Morris, livestock director at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Event Center, and Brian Bolan, agriculture director at the Wisconsin State Fair, chat about COVID-19’s impact on their 2020 state fair plans.

“At the end of the day, the health and the safety of the community was something we just couldn't overlook,” Bolan said. “We also didn't want to water it down; we did not want to have an event just to have an event. We believe that the Wisconsin State Fair experience is a great experience for kids.”

If all kids were allowed to do was unload their animal and not talk to anybody – just show and then jump on the trailer to go home – then it wasn’t really the experience we wanted kids to have, Bolan explained. 

“It was that point when we decided that ‘you know what, as much as we want to have a great Wisconsin State Fair, we're just unable to do that this year. We'll be back next year,’” he said.

Indiana State Fair canceled as well but has organized a modified 4-H livestock and project showcase to allow youth the opportunity to exhibit their 4-H projects. Morris said the feedback about the modified show has been mixed, but mostly positive. 

“There is a lot of gratitude out there for what we were able to put together and by the same token, there are mixed positions out there about the plan that we've put together – that it’s not the same as the state fair. It's not enough, not big enough and not open enough,” Morris said.

Looking ahead to 2021, both Morris and Bolan believe fairs are going to have to change because of COVID-19. Part of the magic of a state fair is the participation factor, Bolan said. 

“I think that is a crucial part of the fair – that interaction of how agriculture interfaces into their worlds,” he said. “We want to make sure we maintain that. I think that the livestock shows will be part of this mission, but I think it will change.”

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