Eastern Young Farmers Club – 2011 Craft and Produce Show
Two wonderful events made for a fun and lively ‘Grow-Your-Own’ weekend! The Manx Food and Drink Festival took place over both Saturday and Sunday, with me coordinating and manning the ‘Allotment Forum’ stand. Then quite last minute I found out that the Eastern Young Farmers Club were holding their annual Craft and Produce Show on one of the same days. It’s been at the back of my mind to enter it this year but I had no idea when and where it would take place until about a week ago. Even though I knew I’d be swamped with the other event, I was determined to enter some of my veg and baked goods into the show.
Every year the Isle of Man Eastern Young Farmer’s Club put on a local competition of home-grown vegetables, fruit and flowers as well as hand-made confectionery, preserves, photography and artwork. With both adult and childrens’ classes and entry prices at only £1, it’s an inclusive little event that anyone can take part in. There aren’t any expensive prizes to win, just recognition from your peers, the fun of friendly competition, and the knowledge that all proceeds will go to a good cause. The proceeds of the entry fees and the money made from the auction of items will be given to a local charity – this year, the Autism Initiatives.
Entries for the show had to be taken in early on Saturday morning to the Working Mens’ Institute in Laxey but I also needed to open the booth at our other event at 10am. My plan was to drop off my entries at 9, rush to Douglas and man the booth for a couple of hours then come back in the afternoon to see if I’d impressed the judges enough to win. The good news is that I managed to get everything done, including an allotment pit-stop to cut some Strawberry Spinach for a last minute entry. The bad news is that in all my flustered rushing about I managed to back the car into a light-pole. Even worse is that I was driving a courtesy car since ours is in the shop at the moment (not my doing thankfully). Anyhow, I don’t think I’ll ever hear the end of ‘Women Drivers’ in this house again.
Categories for Beet-root, Marrows, Turnips, Carrots and Onions
But I’m so glad that I was able to participate this year and also to have the chance to see what others are growing. Gardeners from all around Lonan submitted their prize specimens, some of which have been carefully nurtured since January. You could see the looks of pride and joy on some of these gardeners’ faces when they spotted a coloured card propped up against their entries – especially if it was red. I always try to walk into these types of competitions with no expectations and the mentality of ‘it’s about the effort not the winning.’ But to be honest, there’s no greater thrill than finding out you’ve won! I entered into seven of the categories and am very pleased to have placed in all of them. Two first prizes (red cards), four seconds (blue) and one third (yellow). Of course there were some categories that only had a couple of entries but pooh-pooh on that – I still have a little card!
My first and second prizes for Biscuits, 5-Veg Display, Bread and Onions
But probably the most proud out of all of us had to be Mr. Ian ‘Popa’ Quayle who scooped up nearly all the first places in the fruit and vegetable categories. From carrots to onions to apples, his top class fruit and veg wowed the judges and shamed the rest of our efforts. I thought my onions were big at around 600g each but his monsters were probably double that size. He also produced the heaviest turnip, the loveliest potatoes and the most gigantic pumpkin of the show. He has reason to be proud! One of the other categories that he dominated in was the leeks and he let me in on his secret of growing them big: starting them early and potting them up individually.
After seeing all his wins it made me even prouder to have beat him fair and square in the 5-Vegetable Display. I wasn’t sure that my unconventional veg would interest the judges but my arrangement of Kohlrabi, Spaghetti Squash, Strawberry Spinach, Quinoa, and a yellow Courgette won the day! I was up against some real contenders in that category – Ian’s sprouts, spuds and turnips were arranged nicely in box and my allotment pal Steve had some gorgeous leeks, onions and parsnips. I’ll bet that the competition for this category will be fierce next year!
Ian Quayle and his enormous pumpkin
Overall the event was great fun and I’m already looking forward to growing some entries for the 2012 show. I even spent Saturday evening flipping through catalogues and reading up on ‘Exhibition’ vegetable seeds and how to grow them to enormous sizes. Even though I’m not a professional farmer and I don’t have the years of experience that he has, maybe I could give Mr. Quayle a run for his money. And even if I don’t win I expect that he will savour his victories more if he has some determined competition. But then again I expect Steve might try to out-do us both! If it weren’t for me entering in my 5-veg Display at the last minute he’d have had that one too. Hmmmm…I think I might need to ‘peep over the fence’ next year and keep an eye on him! All in good fun though – there’s nothing more fun and lighthearted than bantering with other keen growers and it’s part of what having an allotment is all about 🙂
Some of Ian Quayle’s First Prize wins
The heaviest turnip of the show
Marrows on display – my pal Steve’s won!
Categories for baked goods
Childrens’ vegetable artwork