Petaluma farmers go for the gold
A chance for local farmers and ranchers to celebrate the end of the summer season while providing a glimpse into what goes into growing and delivering food to our tables, the Farmer Olympics is coming soon to the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds.
This window into the farming world not only helps raise awareness for the importance of food sources and resources, but also enlightens many about the affordability and accessibility of local produce.
The Farmer Olympics is presented by the Farmers Guild, which is led by founder Evan Wiig, who grew up in Denver, attended college in San Francisco, and eventually landed a publishing job in New York. Ironically, it was an abandoned lot in the Big Apple that spawned Wiig’s love of agriculture.
His first experience digging in dirt came by way of a community garden he helped set up in Brooklyn. Since that time, he moved back to California and has been the driving force behind the creation and expansion of Farmers Guilds throughout the state.
On Saturday, Sept. 17, from noon to 7 p.m., ranchers, farmers and regular folks will gather at the fairgrounds to compete in old classics like potato sack races, watermelon seed spitting contests and egg and spoon races, as well as farm-fresh competitions like hay bale stacking, squash bowling and T-post pounding.
On the cerebral side, there will games such as seed matching and food lexicon trivia. Corn husking, butter churning and competitive drip irrigation building are just a few of the hands-on activities planned for this year’s event.
Professionals and novices of all ages are encouraged to join in the fun. Most of the games are self-explanatory and require no preparation. But for those competing in the Ugly Produce Beauty Pageant, the Scarecrow Contest and the Pizza Topping Competition, a bit of pre-planning is encouraged.
Speaking about the Scarecrow Contest, Wiig said, “We are hoping to inspire schools, 4-Hs and other youth groups to create some pretty spectacular Scarecrows.”
On the cusp of the Halloween season, this is a great opportunity to put together your family’s favorite costumes, from Star Wars characters to ghosts and ghouls (in the form of a scarecrow) and bring it to the Farmer Olympics in order to compete for prizes.
Home gardeners are encouraged to bring their best backyard delights, but for those without a garden, the Farmer Olympics will also host a farmers’ market throughout the event. Oliver’s Market will provide the pizza dough, and TV chef and Petaluma native, Laurie Figone, will be on hand to help contestants through the process of chopping and dicing their ingredients. Petaluma’s Miguel Elliott will cook the pizzas in one of his hand-built cobb pizza ovens.
When it comes to food choices at county fairs, the local options are usually limited. Sure, there are more items “on-a-stick” than one could ever dream of, but the food vendors are usually not local, nor do they sell regional products. They travel around the state, and sometimes the country, following these summer and fall festivals without having any real connection to the community that these festivals claim to be celebrating.
County fairs generally showcase agriculture, from local 4-H groups to farmers to ranchers. They even have culinary pavilions where visitors can view prize-winning veggies, fruits, flowers and canned goods, all produced within a few miles of the fairgrounds.