Fair gets national recognition for ag education project

The MyPlate garden project at The Great Frederick Fair recently won national recognition.

The Great Frederick Fair’s effort to teach sensible eating is a winner.

The My Plate Garden project took first place at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions’ recent annual convention and trade show in Las Vegas.

Started in June for the 152nd Great Frederick Fair, the 900-square-foot garden — a collaboration among the fair, United Way of Frederick County, Habitat for Humanity and local farmer Michael Dickson — contained pathways leading to vegetables, fruit, grains, proteins and even a small chicken coop. The project reflects the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid.

MyPlate is part of a larger communication initiative based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help consumers make better food choices. It illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime visual, a place setting, and is designed to remind Americans to eat healthfully, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Frederick garden was built in a circle and reflected the USDA’s MyPlate logo and all the food groups. A complementary mural on a nearby wall hovers over the garden and depicts how agriculture feeds the community. Local volunteer artists painted the mural.

United Way of Frederick County couldn’t be more excited to hear that the garden project was recognized at the IAFE conference, said Malcolm Furgol, United Way’s director of community impact.

“We believe the garden is an excellent example of collective impact by bringing volunteers, organizations and resources together to promote healthy lifestyles,” Furgol said.

Volunteers were mobilized to realize Seed of Life Nurseries farmer Dickson’s vision for the project, Furgol said. United Way committed its Summer Serve youth participants to help with the gardening over the summer, provided the educational materials used for handouts and informational fliers, and recruited volunteers who could talk to fair attendees about the garden and answer their questions.

The national award is a win for the community, not just the fair, said Becky Brashear, former GFF general manager.

“The award speaks well for Farmer Mike’s contribution,” Brashear said, ”and it offered us the first opportunity to work with United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and local artists, who developed the mural, providing a good visual.” 

Getting national recognition for a project that helps the community is great, Dickson said. The garden was intended to be a beacon for youths to learn about agriculture through The Great Frederick Fair and Seed of Life Nurseries, he said. “For us to get national recognition for what we’re doing is truly an honor.”

Plans are to continue and expand the project next year by adding a greenhouse that will provide food year-round, Dickson said.

United Way also plans to continue to support the garden, Furgol said.

“United Way is focused on promoting healthy lifestyles long-term, and this project is a perfect example of a prevention-oriented solution,” Furgol said. “It also ties into our focus area of education by teaching kids how they can plant their own food and even has an impact on our third focus area, improving financial stability for Frederick County families.

“Using fresh produce to cook meals can save money over buying prepared foods and reduces the health care costs associated with unhealthy eating.”

The IAFE Agricultural Awards Program has three main goals: to improve the agricultural education of fairs; to help fairs determine ways to be of service to both fair exhibitors and the fairgoing public; and to recognize fairs that provide outstanding agricultural education.

Follow Ike Wilson on Twitter: @ikewilson99.

Details

• A video about My Plate Garden project can be viewed at www.fairsandexpos.com. At the home page, under the "Events" tab, click on "Seeding Change" and then click on the videos link.

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