Wishetwurra Farm at the Fair, Comments on Third Prizes.

Wishetwurra Farm did well at the Fair.


Our plants won almost a hundred dollars in prize money. That will pay for a lot of seeds next winter, when orders for the 2016 garden season are sent out. 

Let’s forget about the first and second prizes for now. They’re nice to get, but it’s the third prizes and the honorable mentions and the no-prizes-at-all that you can learn about judging from.

Let’s take a look at some of these thirds…and some of the honorable mentions, too.


Butternut squash. Judges like uniformity. This was a well matched pair. But the first and second placers were bigger, and even better matched. Better luck next year…



The “Futzu” Japanese pumpkin. These are beautiful squash. Great tasting, too. Why a only a third prize? I suspect because they’re just not orange and “pumpkiny” enough, because first and second places this year were orange, and pumpkiny. Our other vines had made one nice orange pumpkin, but not two, so we entered the Futzus, hoping for the best. Maybe next year we’ll have two orange pumpkins at Fair time.



Honorable mention. These were the only yellow squash we had. They were a little small and not perfectly matched. Many people prefer teensy squash, which may be why these guys got acknowledged with the pastel honorable mention ribbon.



From root to leaftip, these summer leeks were five feet tall. But not a thick as the other entries. Our summer leeks were planted fairly closely, were a bit shaded by the corn patch, and didn’t get full sun. Lesson learned: plant farther apart, and don’t plant so close to corn that’s eight feet tall.



Red onion category. We thought these onions were a triumph. They’re Italian tropea “torpedo” onions, a sweet onion, and were grown from seed. Ribbons one and two were rounder and redder. In this case, we’re not going to change our ways and switch varieties, just to be rounder and redder. These are absolutely fabulous onions, and we’re not going to change what we grow for the sake of a couple of bucks and a little more glory.



Yellow onions are the chocolate chip cookies of the “Adult Vegetable” department. Everybody grows them and everybody enters them. Getting a third prize is an achievement. A third prize in yellow onions can be better than a first prize in beets. We’re happy, very happy, with this third prize.



Honorable mention, garlic. We were a little miffed by this one. We leave the outer wrappers on our garlic, so they’ll store well. The other entries, which placed better, had been peeled down to more perfect layers. We disagree, but hey, we’re not judging.



This was nice edamame. Entered in the “other vegetables” category. How the heck do you judge twelve different vegetables? Throw the dice? I wouldn’t want to have to decide.



Another “other vegetable” Cherokee Black Popcorn. Pretty enough to get a spot in a “feature” cabinet. Better than that edamame you just looked at. I did not see what got first and second. If this is good popcorn, we’ll grow it again.


About forty-five years ago, John Alley and I were judges for Junior Baking. We got our dose of sugar that day. I’d never been a judge before, and I learned something. Judging is not always easy. When you are judging “Section A-2, Cookies, 6”, and there are a couple of dozen entries, choosing gets hard. Harder still when half of those entries are chocolate chip cookies.

When we were done, I realized as soon as our job was over that if we had to go back into the Exhibit Hall that very instant and do our judging job all over again, that the results would be different. Not in every class we had judged, but but had we done those cookies again, we’d have chosen differently. The same is true for any highly competitive set of entries at the Fair.

So have pity on the judges, and don’t curse them because you think you deserved better, and only got a third, or an honorable mention, or no prize at all.

Next time it will be different.



3 responses to “Wishetwurra Farm at the Fair, Comments on Third Prizes.

  1. Wife Tracey was thrilled to score a blue ribbon for her front door Seckel Pear and Ginger Chutney. The judges don’t open the jellies and jams, so a good seal and presentation are key. She made a very nice label–she got the pear’s peculiar shape and color just right–but she was somewhat crestfallen to find that hers was the only entry in the category. At pickup, the nice fair lady said that blues are awarded only to those that deserve them. Many good lessons here….

  2. Well done, and I love your comments. I’ve never judged vegetables, but I have helped judge a few writing competitions. What you say about judging Junior Baking applies to judging writing, and probably other things too. When most of the entries are at least good and more than a few are excellent, how do you pick 1, 2, and 3? In the highly competitive contests, like Pulitzer Prizes, how do you decide that this outstanding work is the winner and that outstanding work is an also-ran? It’s bloody hard, and the outcome depends at least as much on the priorities of the judges as on the excellence of the work.

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