Pickled Carrots?

Oh how I love to find new foods!

By that, of course, I’m not claiming to discover new foods for the culinary industry or the world. I’m just happy when I try something for the first time and realize that my world has just expanded.

Growing up, if someone said “pass the pickles”, they were referring to pickled cucumbers. The response would likely be, “Dill? Sweet? Bread-and-Butter?” The only other vegetable we pickled was beets. And, really, if you are lucky enough to have a steady supply of all of these home-grown and canned pickles, what else would you need?

About 10 years ago, my farming family discovered pickled asparagus and green beans (mostly because we are also a family who occasionally indulges in a few Bloody Marys). With the usual gusto of those who have big gardens, asparagus and green beans ended up in jars in the cold room too.

A year or two ago, I started hearing my nephews and nieces talk … well, rave is probably a better word … about a small Mexican restaurant in the neighboring town called “La Juanitas”. I was hearing about the carne asada tacos, the sandwiches (torte), the burritos, the line out the front door … and I had to get there. And I did … a few times.

That’s not just the margaritas talking either, because they “don’t have time for margaritas!”

What they do have time for? Pickled carrots on the side.

These are so popular that the first side is complimentary but if you want more, there is a charge. Worth it!

I loved these pickles so much I had to figure out how to make them. Starting with a post on Pinterest, I made a few modifications for personal preferences like heat and texture and, after a few test runs, am thrilled with this recipe. Consider my world expanded … again.

 

Print Recipe
Pickled Mexican Vegetables
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
half-pint jars
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
half-pint jars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, salts, mustard seed, Mexican oregano, and epazote and bring to boil.
  2. Add carrots and simmer until tender.
  3. Add onion and jalapenos; return to boil.
  4. Remove from heat, add chopped fresh cilantro and/or carrot greens. Allow to cool.
  5. Ladle into sterilized jars.
  6. Store in refrigerator.
Recipe Notes
  1. The spiciness of these pickles depends greatly on the jalapenos. If you do not want these to be spicy, remove the seeds and membranes from the inside of the jalapenos before adding to the recipe. This will greatly reduce the heat but still give the flavor and color of the jalapeno.
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Now that I think of it … these would make an excellent addition to my next Bloody Mary! 😉

ENJOY!

 


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You can take the girl out of the farm …

Photo Credit: Joe Murphy

… Picturesque …

Photo Credit: Joe Murphy

… Quiet …

Photo Credit: Joe Murphy

… Idyllic …

This is my home. This is Iowa. This is farm country.

These pictures show the beautiful scenery here. What they do not capture is the less-than-glamorous side: the hard labor, the investment of time and money, the nurturing of plants and animals (24/7/365), the fear of uncontrollable variables, and the never-ending piles of dusty, dirty laundry.

My husband and I were happy to be selected, along with about 50 other people, to go on a two-day tour of farms in SE Iowa. This trip was organized by the Iowa Food & Family Project to provide an opportunity for people to experience and learn about agriculture in Iowa. This year’s trip focused on farms near Pella, Oskaloosa, and Iowa City with stops at grain, pork, dairy, and turkey farms.

If you’ve been following along with my blogs, you know that I am a devout Iowa State Cyclone and St. Louis Cardinal fan. This portion of the state is NOT my comfort zone. This is Hawkeye and Cubs territory. You should be very impressed with my devotion to my blog …

What I learned on this tour is that farming in NW Iowa is exactly the same as farming in SE Iowa.

And it’s not.

The Same.

Faith, Family, Farming – My dad use to say that if you made these things your priority AND you kept them in order, everything would work out. It was clear that the farmers we visited on our tour agree. There was evidence of this from the signs on their walls to the prayer offered before our meal, the 91-year-old grandfather who keeps an eye on the work of his son and grandson while mowing the grass on all their farms, the four children who waited expectantly for us to arrive in our big tour bus to show us their turkeys, and the passion with which they all told their stories of fortune, famine, expansion, community and history.

The other common thread? These men and women love the land. There has been a lot of controversy and media coverage on GMO’s, water pollution, manure management, livestock practices, conservation, and food safety. Farmer’s are under a lot of pressure over these issues. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. The land and the animals are the investment and livelihood of these people. The products and machinery they use are absurdly expensive. They want to protect these things because it is the right thing to do and to not protect them is counterproductive and costly.
  2. Just because a farmer does not shout his/her case in the eye of the media or argue politics on the floor of a government assembly does not mean he/she does not have an educated, passionate answer. An intelligent and considerate question will be answered with an intelligent and considerate explanation.
  3. Technology is embraced by farmers. It is transforming the industry and allowing farmers to know their fields and animals at a much more detailed level than ever before. When a field fire is approaching a hog facility, and the manager of the facility receives notification of the fire and can control the temperature, misters, and, therefore, the comfort levels of the animals immediately through an app on his/her phone, that’s progressive farming.
  4. One bad apple spoils the barrel … and gets the attention of the world. Of course there are farmers who don’t follow the rules and abuse their land/animals. Shame on them. But that shouldn’t tarnish the reputation of the good and honest.
  5. These people invited us onto their property to ask questions. Every single one of them told us that no question was off-the-table. They encouraged us to ask so they could explain. We did and they did. What a concept …

And it’s not.

Farming in NW Iowa is as different from farming in SE Iowa as it is from farm to farm within the same county. Farmer’s are notorious for asking each other “How much rain did you get?” and then shaking their heads that just a mile or two down the road received the exact amount they needed. In the same way, they are grateful when the hail that damaged a field two miles away, didn’t touch a leaf of their crops. Of course, not all their fields are in one area so there’s the post-weather-event drive to check the conditions of the other locations. Unlike most business, farmers do not revel in the loss of their competitors. They mourn it because they are not competitors, they are friends and comrades.

Variability is magnified when you talk about different parts of the state. Soil types, pest problems, flat verses hilly land (no, Iowa is NOT all flat), and climate zones contribute to the science of farming. It is impossible to say that farming is the same all over the state.

And, yet, it felt like home.

After all, when it comes to farmers, it’s a tight community. At our first stop, one of our hosts asked me where I was from.

Me: Near Storm Lake
Tom: Oh yeah? Which town?
Me: Alta?
Tom: Really! Do you happen to know Ernie Glienke?
Me: Yep! He’s my uncle and Godfather!

That’s how it works around here.

Faith, Family, Farming … and FOOD!

As would be expected from a group with the word “food” in their name, we were fed well! Our trip started with a breakfast of yogurt parfait, hard-boiled eggs, and muffins. The parfait were compliments of Anderson-Erickson Dairy, a third-generation, family operated Iowa dairy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along the way, local favorites were brought to us … you know, to tide us over! Homemade S’more Ice Cream bars from the Kalona Creamery and kolaches from the Golden Delight Bakery in Kalona.

Blessed with beautiful weather, we were treated to a wood-fire pizza dinner on a farm near Wellman, Iowa. This pretty farm is home to the brick pizza oven of my dreams. Stonewall Pizza fires up the oven … literally … on Friday nights and people come from all around to enjoy their pizzas, yard games, live music, and the peace and quiet of farm life.

I even came home from this trip with a new favorite summer pizza combination: sweet corn, tomato, and bacon! Seriously … is there anything that says “Iowa Farm Country” than that???

… but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.

A recurring theme throughout our tour was established by the “younger” generation who were establishing themselves. I think I heard three different 30-somethings say “When I graduated high school, I was never going to live on a farm again!” They practically blush (men and women) when they say this because obviously the pull of farm life got to them.

As it does me.

I do live in a suburb. When the seasons change, I need a drive in the country to see the crops. I crave a trip back to the family farm to ride in the combine or just eat a meal to the field. I don’t miss the hog production side of things as much, but I sure do miss the bacon … and ham … and chops.

I’m not back on the farm … yet.

Thanks, Iowa Food & Family Project, for giving me a taste of what I miss.


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A Pet Name, Vacation Destination, and Grandma’s Fancy Side Dish

You’re a peach!

I’m not sure if this is a common phrase outside the United States, or even outside the Midwest. If it isn’t, it should be. The phrase simply means that someone is sweet or thoughtful and often is in response to a meaningful gesture of kindness.

“You brought me coffee? Awww … you’re such a peach!”

“You did the dishes? Awww … you’re such a peach!”

“You’ll take my empty cart all the way back into Costco for me? Awww … you’re such a peach!”

Why a peach? Because it’s sweet? Because it’s cheerful? I don’t know.

Maybe because in the midwest (sans Missouri), peaches are rare? There just aren’t many peach trees around and the ones that do survive, seem to be very susceptible to the uncertain conditions. I never really understood why my mom, with so much canning to do from her own garden, would wait until the end of summer to BUY a box … or two … of peaches at the grocery store so we could can them in jars for the winter. Didn’t we have enough work to do with the produce we had?!?

And then I went to SW Colorado. At the end of August. To a fly fishing resort and organic peach orchard.

Of course they are better right off the tree but now when I see those boxes of peaches from the Palisade, Colorado region, I understand. And I buy them. I don’t can them in jars … only because I don’t have the storage capabilities my mom had. I do freeze them though.

But not before I enjoy one of my grandmother’s specialties. I call it a specialty because I never had it anywhere but at her house (and later at our house in her memory). It was a twist on peaches and cream but I liked it for three reasons:

  1. She always served it as halves of peaches, not slices (which seemed fancy to me).
  2. The idea that one would put mayonnaise on fruit seemed ridiculous.
  3. She had THE COOLEST peanut chopper for someone who was not into gadgets!

Grandma would cut the peaches in half, remove the pit, and peel them. Then she would mix up mayonnaise, orange juice and maybe a pinch of sugar to fill the gap where the pit was. She would then let me use this outrageous chopper to finely dice the peanuts she would sprinkle on top. That’s it. She would sometimes serve it as a side dish with our meal and sometimes it would be dessert. So simple but so elegant to me.

A few years ago, I discovered Greek yogurt. High protein, good source of probiotics, low-fat … and a great substitute for mayonnaise. So I’ve updated Grandma’s “recipe”. I also use honey instead of sugar and I add a touch of grated nutmeg. If I have orange juice or zest, I will add that too (but only a little or the yogurt will become too thin). And, ever since I received the recipe for Lori’s Sugar & Spice Pecans, I use them instead of peanuts.

Mostly because I don’t have Grandma’s cool gadget!

And because I like pecans better.

Print Recipe
Peaches and Cream Cups
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
peach halves
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
peach halves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, honey, and nutmeg.
  2. Place peach halves on platter or serving dishes and sprinkle the top of each with a little salt.
  3. Fill the center of each peach half with the yogurt mixture.
  4. Top with a pecan half or sprinkle with chopped pecans.
  5. Serve with a light drizzle of peach balsamic vinegar. Pear balsamic or white balsamic vinegar can also be used.
Recipe Notes

Peeling Peaches: After cutting around the perimeter, "Free-Stone" peaches, when ripe, will release themselves from the pit with only a gentle twist. They also peel very easily with a small knife. Alternatively, less ripe peaches can be submerged whole in boiling water for 1 minute, removed from the water, cooled slightly, and peeled.

Candied Pecans: For a sweet/spicy touch, make Candied Pecans in advance to top the peach cups.

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Another modification I made to Grandma’s recipe (that sounds like sacrilege, doesn’t it?), was the addition of a drizzle of a light balsamic vinegar over the top. I fell in love with a peach white balsamic vinegar I bought while on our trip to Colorado so that is what I use. A white balsamic works really well too and if you are fortunate enough to find a pear or a fig balsamic vinegar, they are wonderful as well.

It makes me smile to share the recipes and stories of my grandmothers. They taught me so much. But I think the biggest reason I smile when I have peaches around is because it reminds me that “Peaches” was my dad’s pet name for my mom.

“Hey Peaches! What’s for dinner?”

And he always knew it would be delicious.


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Beet Salad with Feta, Walnuts, and Prosciutto

Farm …

… to Table

My small, suburban garden hardly qualifies as a “farm” but it’s my farm. In the 20+ years that we have lived in this house, the trial-and-error approach has taught me how to get as much as possible out of my 8’x20′ space. And “as much as possible” refers to variety as well as quantity.

One vegetable that was not on my list of must-haves until 4-5 years ago was beets. I don’t even remember why I decided to plant them the first time. It probably had something to do with some Better Homes and Gardens or Cooking Light articles. I am a sucker for those gorgeous photos! I decided to plant a small row and discovered just how little effort and attention they require. They aren’t fussy when it comes to water, they don’t require much in the way of thinning, and they make a perfect border plant.

I also needed to figure out what I was going to do with my harvest. I grew up on beet pickles, but no one in my family really liked them so it seemed like a lot of work for just me (besides, I can always steal a jar from my mom’s cupboard). At this point in time, roasting vegetables and the addition of balsamic vinegar to many recipes became popular. I tried this combination with the fresh-from-the-garden beets and was so impressed, I have been growing them ever since.

Cleaning and cooking beets can be messy but over the years I have found a few tips and tricks to be very helpful. For more instructions on cleaning, cooking, and freezing beets, check out this post: Are You Missing a Beet? I apologize now for the abundance of “beet” puns.

My favorite way to enjoy these “roasted” beets? Well, it’s not a recipe so much as an assembly.

  1. In a bowl or on a serving platter, place a layer (or two) of sliced beets.
  2. Drizzle the beets lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I used a white balsamic here).
  3. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Sprinkle with chopped, toasted (warmed in a pan until fragrant) walnuts.
  5. Scatter chunks or crumbles of feta (or goat or blue) cheese on top.
  6. Distribute a few (or many) thin slices of prosciutto (can be lightly fried in a dry pan for a crispy texture).
  7. Grab your fork.

If the beet greens are fresh and tender, they can be added as well. If that’s too much beet-flavor, spinach and/or arugula will provide a good balance.

I am hoping I have piqued your curiosity and/or given you a little different perspective on this particular root vegetable. It’s easy to get stuck in a mindset of “I tried it once and it was awful!” Considering that maybe different ways of preparation and different combinations of flavors can wholly change your opinion.

Who knows … I may try to change your impressions of Brussels sprouts in the near future.

And, yes, it is Brussels, not brussel … this blog is teaching me so much!

Sweet beets, salty prosciutto, crunchy walnuts, and tangy feta cheese: this simple salad hits all the notes of a complete meal!
Sweet beets, salty prosciutto, crunchy walnuts, and tangy feta cheese: this simple salad hits all the notes of a complete meal!


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Are You Missing A Beet?

Are you missing a beet?

Have you gone off the beeten path?

Don’t beet yourself up!

No one wants to be defeated …

đŸŽ”Â Just beet itÂ đŸŽ”

But don’t beet it too a pulp … mushy beets? That’s nasty.

Ok … I’m pun … I mean, done.

It’s hard to be serious when writing about a word that just begs for jokes and lyrics and a vegetable that is this beautiful! Look at those pictures … the deep reds and greens, the stripes of the stems and the ruffles of the greens? How is it possible so many people refuse to enjoy this nutrient-dense, sweet and earthy plant?

Of those who do enjoy them, many are only exposed to the pickled version … delicious, but literally soaked in sugar. I’m not going to beet around the bush (sorry … last one, I promise), they don’t need sugar. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness and tenderness of the beets without adding sugar or losing nutrients in the boiling process.

What are those nutrients? I recently found a website, lovebeets.com, that has a fantastic collection of the health benefits of beets, as well as some fun facts. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • betaine: aids in proper and active liver function
  • antioxidants and cholesterol control
  • high iron, folic acid, and potassium
  • aids in proper digestive health
  • “Nature’s Viagra” – I am not making this up
  • my personal favorite – beets can be made into a port-style wine!!

Starting to think a little differently about beets? Let me add that they are low calorie (75 cal/cup) and simple to prepare. Messy? Yes. But you just need the right tools.

There are a few things that will make the process of roasting beets much more pleasant and greatly reduce clean up:

  1. a slow cooker
  2. slow cooker liners
  3. plastic gloves
  4. an apron
  5. a soft toothbrush

NOTE: I realize that by using a slow cooker, it is not “roasting”. Please don’t beet me up for this technicality. (Insert eye roll and exasperated sigh here.)

For the first year or two that I grew my own beets, I roasted them in my oven. This works great except for the fact that I very seldom want to heat up my house with a 400° oven in the summer and sometimes I want to walk away from that oven without worrying that I’m going to overcook the smaller beets and under-cook the larger ones.

Hello, crock pot!

To minimize the skin- and utensil-staining hassle of working with beets, I lined the crock pot with a plastic liner and covered my hands with plastic gloves. An old apron is also important to avoid staining clothes with the inevitable splatter which occurs while scrubbing and peeling the beets. The final piece of advice that I have for you when it comes to working with beets is to use a soft toothbrush (obviously not one you want to use for its intended purpose) and a cutting board that will not stain or that you do not care if it becomes stained.

Do not let these “warnings” beet you down (oops … there I go again). Each year, I go through this process two, maybe 3, times. The rest of the year, I am enjoying the results. Once they are roasted and sliced/diced, I freeze them in serving-sized portions and they retain their flavor and texture wonderfully.

It’s really quite simple … start with fresh beets.

I grew these beets in my small, urban garden. After I pulled them, I rinsed them outside with the garden hose, to remove most of the dirt. If you don’t have a garden, of course you can use beets from the farmer’s market or grocery store. Look for healthy green leaves and beets that do not look dried out.

Cut off the leaves and stems and the root about one inch above/below the beet. The leaves are a nutritional green that can be eaten raw in salads when small and tender or sautéed like chard, spinach, or kale.

Wash the beets in cold water.

Gently scrub the beets with a soft toothbrush to remove the remaining dirt.

The beets do not have to be perfectly clean. After roasting, the ends and peels will be removed. After cleaning, place beets on paper towels to remove excess water and then place in crock pot.

Drizzle the beets with olive oil, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Cover crock pot and choose a temperature setting. Each crock pot or slow cooker is a little different so timing and temperature require a bit of experimenting. If I’m going to leave the slow cooker unattended for more than 4 hours, I use the “Warm” setting and plan on 6-8 hours. If not, I will use the “Low” setting and plan on 3-4 hours. All of this depends on how many beets you put in the pot and how big the beets are. The best way to test if the beets are properly cooked is to insert a thin, but sharp, knife into the beet. If the knife easily runs through the beet without much pressure, it is done.

Remove beets from slow cooker to a glass (or stain-proof) pan. Allow to cool just until they can be handled. Removing the skins will be easier if they are still warm.

Put on plastic gloves. Slice off the stem and root ends of each beet. Using a small, thin knife, gently scrape off the skin. It should virtually slide off with little pressure. Slice or dice beets into uniform pieces. Allow to cool completely.

Refrigerate for up to one week or divide into desired portions, place in resealable plastic bags, and freeze.

The beets can be eaten warm or cold. To reheat, simply add a small amount of water to the beets in a pan and slowly heat over a low to medium-low temperature. If you reheat the frozen beets, allow beets to defrost about half-way at room temperature before placing them in a pan (omit the extra water as the ice crystals from freezing will provide enough moisture) and heat as directed above.

Add the roasted beets to smoothies (a little goes a long way) or salads. My favorite way (so far) to enjoy them is a Walnut-Feta-Beet Salad with prosciutto.

 

If this doesn’t convince you to give beets another shot, then I think you belong with Michael in this group of people:

Nobody Likes Beets: The Office

 

You can’t BEET these simple “roasting” instructions and tips for using a slow cooker to prepare this healthy, beautiful vegetable!

 


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How I Spent My Summer

What is it about childhood memories?

Those rose-colored, temperature-controlled, glamour-coated days of carefree simplicity?

OK … so that’s a bit of a stretch, but I recently revisited one of the places that has held a prominent place in the mental photo album of my youth: the Buena Vista County Fair (BVCF). To imagine what summers on the farm were like, picture Little House on the Prairie, but with indoor plumbing and cars. As a kid, I had chores: gardening, canning, cooking, cleaning, mowing, and walking beans (a dirty and hot job of walking through the bean fields, pulling weeds in the ever-so-pleasant company of my brothers). There was also plenty of time for riding bikes, swimming, and hanging out with friends. For one week each summer, the county fairgrounds became my home-away-from-home.

When many people think about fairs, I think they picture state fairs: Rogers and Hammerstein stanzas play in the background as images of sparkling carousels, giant corn dogs, ribbons of blue, red, and white flutter in the breeze, and children riding on the shoulders of their parents as they take in the shows.

Now take this extravaganza and divide it by 99 and you find the county fair. Why 99? There are 99 counties in Iowa and each has its own fair. The purpose of the county fair is to focus on the “education of the youth of Iowa, and showcasing Iowa’s agricultural, industrial and domestic heritage” (Association of Iowa Fairs). The “education of the youth of Iowa” is largely centered around the 4-H and FFA clubs. The former is what provided me with so much involvement, opportunity, and fun at the fair.

If you are unfamiliar with 4-H, it is a national youth organization with local, county, state, and national activity levels fostering self-improvement and community service. Kids are introduced and encouraged to explore areas like food & nutrition, sewing, home improvement, animals & livestock, citizenship, photography, public speaking, agriculture, and so much more.

By the time I was 9, thanks to my mom and my grandmothers, I had a pretty solid foundation in cooking, baking and gardening. 4-H was the perfect opportunity for me to build on and expand my food-loving spirit. All throughout the year, our club would meet monthly and divide the responsibilities of hosting, presenting, planning, and sharing ideas. But when school let out in May, it was time to start planning and creating for the fair.

The fair was our chance to display and have judged the things we learned about and made throughout the year. The fairgrounds had (have) a special building for 4-H and each club in the county had (have) a space to decorate and display. Each project had to be entered under a specific category and was judged at the very beginning of the week. Baked goods and nutritional information, arts and crafts, sewing and quilting, refinishing and refurbishing, posters and instructional displays filled the building, waiting to be adorned with a purple, pink, blue, red, or white ribbon.

Once the decorating and judging was over, there was more time for socializing. For the next few days, my cousin and I would wander the fairgrounds, spend time in the cattle barns where her dairy cows were housed for the week, eat fair food (specifically the homemade pie at the Peterson Family Food Stand), and watch whatever events were scheduled for that day. If my cousin was involved in something like the cattle show/judging, I would watch. If I was involved in giving some kind of presentation (usually involving food … go figure), she would watch. The fair was where we got to know a lot of kids from other towns, so we watched what they were doing. There was always a small midway with rides and games that was a true novelty … a couple of rounds on the Tilt-a-Whirl and a bunch of quarters lost to the bulldozer game usually sent us exploring again.

The evenings were reserved for special 4-H events and grandstand entertainment. In the early evening, there would be events centered around 4-H like the Fair Queen Contest, Pie Baking Contest, Share the Fun, and a teen dance. Our fairgrounds were the home of the BV County Stock Car Races during much of the year so the entertainment often involved a night of races, an evening tractor pull (don’t knock it till you’ve watched it), and concerts.

As I wandered around the fair this year, I noticed the 4-H building seemed smaller, there weren’t as many kids or adults milling around, the number of projects and entries had declined, and, sadly, the Peterson Food Stand was no longer operating. I thought, “Where IS everybody?’

I was disappointed.

There were still fun things to do … a rock-climbing wall, kids activities, presentations, animals ranging from large horses to a huge variety of hens and roosters, rides and games, etc.

Pedal Pull Contest

There were still fun things to see … beautiful arts and crafts, kids showing their cattle, 4-H projects, and cute baby contests.

In a world where a 2-hour movie costs $10, a concert runs $75-$100 per ticket, a trip to the aquatic center is $8-$10, this day at the fair was a true bargain. Admission was one dollar. The pork burger I bought from the Pork Producers was two dollars. That evening, the Pork Producers and Corn Growers were sponsoring a free dinner: pork burgers (no, I didn’t mind eating two pork burgers in one day), fresh-from-the-field sweet corn, and ice cream. They were collecting donations to support veterans and as I waited in line for free food, it was pretty easy to contribute after spending a total of $3 for a day of entertainment and memories.

Maybe the fair hasn’t changed nearly as much as my perspective has. I’ve moved to an urban area where instead of supporting county fairs, I’ve been going to the State Fair. Is it possible that those memories have been running through my brain under the influence of rose-colored glasses? I don’t remember it being miserably hot and humid during the fair. I remember it being … well, ideal. I remember it being a busy place, full of people I knew. Or maybe it was not quite as busy as I remember but was full of the friendly, supportive people of my youth.

The fair was a place of freedom, competition, cooperation, networking, community, and education. As a kid, I didn’t realize I was getting all of these life lessons when I paid the admission at the gate. I was just paying for a day of fun. For 9 years, I pledged …

my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

I repeated this 4-H pledge over and over again. I think it took a trip back in time for me to realize I am still a student of 4-H. Next year, I pledge to spend a few days visiting the county fairs in my area. After all, “Shop Local” applies to entertainment too.


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