What they say; what they mean (Editorial)

by | Sep 7, 2018

A state fair brings a cross section of the public to its grounds.
That inevitably brings up questions when visitors reach the the agriculture and animals exhibits.
Providing them answers has long been a huge component of fairs but it still shows the gaping divide between the farming and the non-farming public.
For instance, take the Young Farmers Dairy Bar at the recently wrapped up Maryland State Fair.
The longstanding ice cream stand, manned by volunteer Farm Bureau members and young farmers from across the state, is a key fundraiser for the Young Farmers committee to hold programs throughout the year.
A common question from people stepping up to buy ice cream — perhaps more frequent than past years — remains, “Is this homemade?”
It’s a puzzling question to answer.
Is it homemade at the fair? That’s not practical or even legal.
Perhaps the rise in the use of single-task home appliances making anything from panini sandwiches to gelato has them thinking it should be possible anywhere.
Was it homemade at a farm?
Each day of the fair featured a “Flavor of the Day” from a Maryland on-farm creamery.
But sourcing all its ice cream from small scale operations to serve the crowds over the 11-day run of the fair isn’t feasible either.
What they ask is if it’s homemade, but what they are really saying is, “Will I feel good about buying this?”
Does it match the image and definition of local and wholesome that they’ve compiled from marketing, social media and what their friends tell them?
To them, it’s more than geography, how local something is.
The answer to this real question is — and ultimately was from the young farmers who fielded them — yes.
Milk to make the ice cream, made by Hershey’s Ice Cream, based in Harrisburg, Pa., since1894, is sourced through the Maryland-Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative which buys milk from hundreds of local dairies, some of whom brought cows to show at the fair.
Not for nothing, the sugar for the ice cream came from Domino Sugar in Baltimore.
The farmers that make and sell their own products should be applauded for taking on that risk.
But with local, homemade and all the other terms used in food marketing so subjective, the many more farmers who grow food for another business shouldn’t be excluded from the local label if that claim can be backed up.
While the questions get a laugh afterward amongst farmers, those that are asking are serious.
They want to know even if they don’t know what to ask.
And it’s good that they’re asking actual farmers instead of Google but the challenge comes in giving the answer they need to the question they didn’t ask.
All in about 30 seconds before they move up in line or just stop listening.

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