Maryland's farming Kaleidoscope

August 27, 1993

Over the past decades, the Timonium fairgrounds have been hemmed in by more and more manifestations of urbanization. What used to be farm fields have been taken over by tract housing, shopping centers and office buildings, which, of course, is the story of Maryland's farming as well.

In just two decades, agricultural land in the state has shrunk from more than 3 million acres to 2.5 million acres.

Still, farming is a $400 million-a-year industry in Maryland. Tag onto that all kinds of economic offshoots such as distributing and warehousing and the amount swells further. In fact, such farming-related sectors as nursery products and the poultry industry are not retrenching, but expanding.

The great variety of local agriculture will come into sharp focus tomorrow, when the Maryland State Fair opens its 112th run at Timonium. If the beautiful weather holds up, more than half a million visitors are likely to attend the 10-day event that follows smaller fairs in various counties.

Over the years, the Maryland State Fair has become a popular farewell to the summer. It is the culmination of years of hard work of 4-H members who compete in shows and demonstrations to && win coveted awards. Meanwhile, hundreds of crafts entries are judged, as are produce from the tastiest honey to biggest cucumbers. A number of hands-on demonstrations of such skills as embroidery, rug hooking, chair-caning, weaving and spinning are scheduled each day. And, with more than 30 rides, the midway will provide its usual thrills and chills.

One of this year's draws is a big new Ferris wheel -- to commemorate the 100th anniversary of that ride, which was introduced at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago and instantly became an American icon.

Corn-on-the-cob, pit beef, crab cakes and cotton candy are favorite fair fare. Then there is daily racing on the adjoining track. Post time is 1 p.m.

In our urbanized society, the Maryland State Fair is an unequaled educational event. With today's slick packaging, it is easy to forget that much of what we buy in stores comes from nature, including farms and fields. In some cases synthetic products may rival home-grown ones but they do not have the taste or nutritional qualities of the original farm-grown foods.

With admission still $3 per visitor, this event is a bargain. The fairgrounds are easy to reach from either Interstate 83 or the light rail line, which stops right at the fair. Enjoy!

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