Minnesota fair features organic crop competition

ST. PAUL, Minnesota, August 5, 2005: Minnesota leads the nation in certified organic corn and soybean acreage, so it is fitting that the Steele County Fair is one of the nation's first to feature open class competitions for certified organic crops.

The fair runs August 16-21 at the county fairgrounds in Owatonna. Organic farmers have until August 15 to submit entries.

Elmer Reseland, Steele County Fair Manager, says the fair is one of best attended in the state, drawing nearly 40 percent of its total attendance from outside the county. The annual get-together has adapted to changing public interests by including events like the organic crop competition.

"One secret to our success is that we've changed through the years," said Reseland. "Fairs have to adapt to their environment and peoples' changing life styles. Most of the successful county fairs in the nation have kept their agricultural focus, and by including organic agriculture and other areas of interest, Steele County continues to draw huge crowds."

Superintendent of Organic Crops Leo Seykora started the organic crop class event six years ago to raise public awareness and elevate the profile of the high-quality organic crops that Minnesota farmers produce. Because they are open classes, farmers from outside the county can choose from 10 classes and 51 lot categories. Entries may include corn, small grains, sheaf grain, baled hay, baled straw and stalk corn, and soybeans. An estimated 15,000 people visited last year's educational display on organic food and farming.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Organic and Diversification Specialist Meg Moynihan estimates there are more than 450 certified farms in Minnesota and says the Steele County Fair is a great example of the growth of organic agriculture.

"Organic food sales have grown 20 percent each year for the past 10 years," said Moynihan. "This growth offers value-added opportunities for both Minnesota farmers and food companies in the state."

For more information about organic agriculture in Minnesota contact Meg Moynihan at meg.moynihan@state.mn.us. For Steele County fair entry and premium information, call Leo Seykora at 507-451-2906. Information is also available at the Steele County Free Fair web site: http://scff.org

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