As Lancaster County shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, plenty of people hunkered down in the kitchen to bake bread, create cakes and nurture sourdough starters.
Did any of that practice fill local fairs and the Pennsylvania Farm Show with more baked goods?
Liz Henry and Erin Kilgore, co-chairs of Solanco Fair’s home department, thought so. They even created a new category for the 2021 fair: sourdough bread. There was one problem.
“We didn’t have any entries,” Henry says.
While baking became a distraction and a hobby over the past two years, a flood of bread, pies and cookies didn’t make it to fairs or the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Lancaster County’s seven community fairs actually saw a drop in entries this year. Farm Show entries also were down.
The seven Lancaster County fairs associated with the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs have lots of activities, including competitions for people to win cash premiums and bragging rights. A win in a few contests, like the blue ribbon apple pie competition, is the ticket to the farm show contest. Otherwise, baked goods at local fairs are put on display and sometimes auctioned to the highest bidder.
By the time the first 2021 fair opened in August, women like Katelyn Haldeman, chair of the baked goods department at Manheim Farm Show's organizing baked goods contests, didn’t know what to expect, she says.
Each local fair saw fewer baked goods entries, from a 15 percent drop at New Holland Farmers Fair to a 40 percent decrease at Solanco Fair.
Understanding exactly why bakers didn’t show up isn’t easy.
Perhaps, people weren’t ready to go to crowded places, Henry says.
Maybe the increase in food prices got in the way, says Tamara Warner, co-chair of the home and dairy products at New Holland Farmers Fair.
The state farm show had fewer entries in categories like chocolate cake and apple pie. Still, there were enough for five bakers to win in each category.
Here are some of the winning recipes: