Save up to 90% on a Hartford Courant subscription. Click here to sign up now!
CT Now

4-H Fair kitchen supports buying local

Wilson Arbaugh and his wife, Mary Ellen, arrive at the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair around 7:30 to 7:45 a.m. each morning to help prepare the fair cafeteria for its rush of visitors throughout the day.

They normally stay through 8 p.m. to help clean up after a day spent serving the hundreds of guests who stop in for lunch or dinner.

At 72, one might think Wilson Arbaugh is ready to stop volunteering in the kitchen — something that he's done for more than 30 years — but despite the long hours, he still enjoys volunteering at the fair today as much as ever.

"It's in your blood," Arbaugh said of his commitment to the fair, an event he's been attending since he joined 4-H as a young boy more than 60 years ago.

With the Maryland Department of Agriculture recently wrapping up its annual Buy Local Challenge, there isn't a much better place than the fair kitchen to get local produce.

Supervised by Katie Bryan, of Westminster, the kitchen serves up country meals, made up mostly with local products and staffed with volunteers.

Arbaugh is one of about 30 volunteers in the fair's cafeteria, including adults and children.

"This kitchen can only be as good as the volunteers that come to help," Bryan said.

Bryan estimated that about half of meals served are made with local products donated by area farmers, including cafeteria sponsors Knill's Farm Market, Lippy Brothers, Local Homestead Products, Baugher's, The Hen's Nest and Snader Farms.

Performance Food Group fills in the rest of the menu for the cafeteria.

Trevor Huff, owner of Local Homestead Products in New Windsor, has been donating produce to the fair kitchen since he formed the business selling local produce and other products three years ago.

"I truly believe in giving back," he said. "As long as we've been in business, we've been trying to support the fair."

For Huff, who participated in FFA throughout his four years at Francis Scott Key High School, supporting the fair is especially important.

"I'm a 22-year-old fresh out of this, I know what it feels like to have a local business support you," he said.

Knill's Farm Market in Mount Airy has been donating produce to the fair kitchen for the past 10 to 15 years, according to Jim Knill.

"This is for the kids and to support the Ag Center and fair activities," he said.

All proceeds from the cafeteria go directly to Carroll County 4-H program.

Bryan, who has volunteered in the kitchen for the past 10 years, is in her second year of heading the operation, which organizers begin planning for in February.

"There are some days we can't even imagine all of the food we go through," she said of the long days and crowds in Burns Hall.

While she jokes that "sleep is not on [her] agenda during fair week," she acknowledges that giving back to 4-H makes it worth the hard work.

"I've done a lot for 4-H and 4-H has done a lot for me," she said.

Reach staff writer Blair Ames at 410-857-7874 or email

Copyright © 2015, CT Now