Advice on Staging Exhibits
8th Aug 2002
Now we are in the showing season and things are getting a little hectic, I would like to give a few words of advice to exhibitors reagarding the staging of their exhibits. I have been growing vegetables since I was boy when my father gave me a square yard of ground from his vegetable garden to grow some radish, mustard and cress (not exactly 20 pointers to say the least but it was certainly a great way to get my attention held as the germinated quickly) and I have also been judging for many years now. Over all these years I have gleaned a lot of information on preparing and staging vegeatbles, in the main through reading and adapting the information in Edwin Beckets marvellous book 'Vegetables For Home and Exhibition'
Don't take Short Cuts
There's nothing that annoys me more than seeing a potentialy winning exhibit not being prepared and staged properly. I know only too well how much hard work goes into the showing game, the harvesting, the washing, the preperation, the selection, the packing, the constant travelling and finally the staging. I know that tiredenss make one want to take short cuts and that may often be the downfall of a potentially winning exhibit. However I do sometime have the feeling that its either a little lack of knowledeg or that 'it's good enough" mentality.
Try that little bit harder
In my shool days I'm afraid I wasn't madly in love with Mathematics and English literature, so inevitably many times on my school report the words ‘could do a lot better if he tried' would appear. Well the same is true for many exhibitors because if they only tried that little bit harder they would actually become top flight exhibitors. There is no room for short cuts when growing the finest vegetables, it's attention to detail that counts, particularly at the highest level and in a tight situation between First and Second prize position. Whats the point of spending endless hours preparing the ground, nurturing your seedlings along in the middle of winter and then the planting out and after care, only at the final hurdle to do an injustice to the final dish.
The very word or term ‘Showing' means exactly what it says, you are showing something off for, firstly, the judge to admire and pass his judgement and finally for the public to enjoy the spectacle. Your exhibit should therefore, in the first instance, be spotlessly clean and this must always be achieved with vegetables that need washing, always use plenty of clean water. When I wash my root crops I have an old galvanised bath at the bottom of the garden and this is always full of water with the hose stuck into it allowing plenty of running water into the bath conastantly. Carrots in particualr will repay you if you wash them in spotlessly clean water.
Many times I have mentally down pointed specimens because they have been, either weashed too much resulting in the outer layer of skin being sccruubed off or they were very dull in colour. The former is more than likely the result of a poorly grown specimens when there have been the odd marks or lumps evident and the grower has tried to sponge these away. The latter howver is often the result of having continuously washed all the root crops in the same water. When washing in dirty water the tiniest grains of soil and grit will be ingrained into the skin and though the carrots will look well when wet, they rarely shine out afterwards. As most +
Optimistic and Pessimistic
As a judge, I always approach classes in an optimistic manner hoping that I am going to be privileged in handling a growers marvellous exhibit and looking for all the positive and meritorious attributes of a particular entry. If I see a fault in the exhibit I am immediately dismayed and sad. However I know of some judges who seem to approach the task with a pessimistic attiude, they seem to look for the negative or non meritorious attributes and seem to relsih having dioscovered a fault. I suppose in a way both can be said to be correct as the judges task is find the best the entry from all those staged and some naturally will be be better than others.
I however feel that going to a judge a class with an optimistic and open mind is a better way to approach the task. I feel strongly that a judge should always be looking for the meritorious attributes and in so doing, sadly on some occassions, he will find the non meritorious ar faults. A pessimistic judge will approach the class and immediately start looking for faulst seemingly oblivious to the merits of that particulalr dish and seems to relish in finding the smallest mark or scaratch.
Striving for Perfection
The difference in the end is in the attitude, particulalry if judging a collection because one will downpoint faults more than the other simply because he has approached the task looking for them. Every judge should be aware that no dish is perfect, I have seen some absolutely superb dishes in my time but I have yet to see a perfect one where a the slifghtest of faults could not be detected. I have saying in my seed catalogue ‘I strive for perfection but settle for excellence', I think that sums it all up.
Do make sure that after you have washed your carrots that all the tiny root hairs have been removed, I know it's a slow job, but one that has to be done if you reall have pride in what you have just grown. The same with parsnips, remove all side shoots or the fine hairs and make sure that you wash the area between the stalks and the neck of the parsnip. Lastly one of my pet hates is exhibitors leaving talcum powder on their onions, there is nothing at all wrong in using it to get the right conditiion on them, but do remeber to completely wipe it off with a damp cloth prior to tying the necks.