The Kentucky State Fair is one of the highlights of the agricultural year in Kentucky. As a farm kid from Scott County, I have many fond memories of past state fairs. It’s a chance to rub elbows with our neighbors, reunite with friends from across the commonwealth and show off the best that Kentucky agriculture has to offer. The 113th edition of this great tradition is Aug. 17-27, and, as always, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is pleased to be a part of it.
Throughout the entire fair, you will see KDA staff, along with the cooperative extension service, working for you from end to end of the Kentucky Exposition Center grounds. KDA employees work the livestock shows, manage the agricultural exhibits and perform numerous other duties to ensure that everyone has a good time at the fair. We host exhibits in the West Hall and the South Wing that demonstrate the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives.
Since last year’s event, a new fair board has taken shape, and Jason Rittenberry has come on board as the new president and CEO. He and his team are bringing energy and an innovative spirit to the fair while at the same time honoring its best traditions as a showcase for Kentucky agriculture.
For the fifth year in a row, high school cooking teams will compete for scholarships and the coveted skillet trophy during the Farm to School Junior Chef state tournament. Junior Chef is a KDA program that enables students to learn food handling and preparation skills while teaching them why it’s important to use fresh local foods. Be sure to visit the Gourmet Garden stage and cheer on these bright and hard-working young people.
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If you like to eat, look no further than the Great Kentucky Cook Out Tent. Try a pork chop sandwich, a hamburger, a catfish sandwich or any of several other foods, and wash it down with a cool, refreshing glass of milk. Visit the Great Kentucky Cook Out Tent and show your appreciation for Kentucky’s agricultural commodity groups.
Not all Kentuckians have reliable access to food, and I hope you will take time to drop by the KDA booth to learn about the Kentucky Hunger Initiative. The Hunger Initiative is our attempt to raise the alarm that one in six Kentuckians — including one in five schoolchildren — are food insecure. In July, agricultural lenders Farm Credit Mid-America and CoBank stepped up to the plate to fight hunger by donating more than 120 chest freezers to food pantries across the state so that these organizations can store more frozen protein for hungry Kentucky families. Across the next few months, these freezers will roll into food pantries right before the holiday season begins.
You too, may have memories of state fairs past — competing in livestock shows, enjoying a hearty Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast or watching your favorite performing artist on stage. This year, revisit the fair and make memories for you and your family. All the while, be sure to tweet and post on Facebook using the KDA’s official hashtag #KyAg365 to show how Kentucky agriculture has positively affected your life.
Elected in 2015, Ryan Quarles currently serves as Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture.