September 11, 2019
BIG E PREVIEW
Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation
The Big E is not just the largest fair in the Northeast offering entertainment, exhibits, fair foods, and rides. It’s also an important opportunity for Connecticut agricultural producers to showcase their products to a wide audience of fairgoers and potential customers.
The Big E is an annual event that begins the second Friday after Labor Day and runs for 17 days. This year’s fair is from September 13-29, 2019 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA. Last year The Big E attracted 1,543,470 visitors.
This year, The Big E’s Connecticut Day is scheduled for Wednesday, September 18th. To celebrate Connecticut Day, DoAg’s Bureau of Aquaculture will be offering freshly shucked Connecticut Grown clams and oysters for fairgoers to sample in the Connecticut building. The Connecticut Grown Store will also be on hand with an updated inventory of Connecticut Grown shirts, hats, and other apparel for sale.
Connecticut residents account for 47% of attendees according to Big E statistics. This is a tremendous opportunity for Connecticut’s small businesses, including farm families and non-profit agricultural organizations to reach a huge audience of potential new customers. It has afforded exhibitors the opportunity to network and make connections to increase their market opportunities in neighboring states.
Ray LeMaire of Twin Pines Farm in Thomaston, CT said his farm gained access to multiple grocery stores in Massachusetts through the exposure gained by attending The Big E.
Ray has been attending The Big E as a vendor in the Connecticut building for more than 10 years selling jams, jellies, relish, and pickled products made from their own Connecticut Grown produce.
“We are a small, family owned and operated, vegetable, flower, and food producer,” said Ray. “The Big E has been a good marketing opportunity for us.”
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg) works with agricultural producers and non-profit organizations to provide exhibit space in the Connecticut building at minimal or no cost. The minimal fee charged to exhibitors has been used for upgrades to the booth spaces to keep it fresh and inviting to fairgoers as well as functional and comfortable for exhibitors.
More than 30 agricultural businesses and non-profits, and eight farm wineries will rotate through the agriculture booth spaces in the Connecticut building this year.
A few Connecticut farm businesses returning to the Connecticut building this year include: Newgate Farms offering their tomato basil sauce, summer soup, and salsa; Killam & Bassette Farmstead with their fruit, jam, gift baskets, apple and pear sauce for sale; Norman’s Sugarhouse selling their honey, maple syrup, maple candy, and maple cream; and Sweet Wind Farm will have their jams, jellies, pumpkins, gourds, and maple products available.
In addition to these perennial farm favorites, the Connecticut building will host a few new agricultural vendors in 2019, including Lyric Hill Farm from Granby, CT.
Nancy Butler of Lyric Hill Farm is excited to offer her goat milk soap products, hand knit linen washcloths, bath teas, hand and body butter, and lip balm for sale at The Big E this year. Nancy hopes to gain access to new markets and educate people about the process of soap making.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to ‘get up on my soap box’ and bring my products and my farm to the attention of people who may be unaware that there still is a lot of agriculture in the Nutmeg State,” said Nancy.
Other new agricultural vendors to the Connecticut building include: the Connecticut Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association with Sun One Organic Farm provide information about organic agriculture with a microscope available for visitors to see living organisms in soil samples; the New CT Farmer Alliance offering information for new and emerging farmers in an effort to nurture a successful and diverse agricultural landscape for Connecticut; the Connecticut Hop Growers Association making samples of Connecticut hops available for viewing and comparison to West Coast hops; and Oakridge Dairy offering information about their new Modern Milkman home delivery service as well as chocolate milk samples.
A few of the Connecticut agricultural industry service providers and organizations that will be in attendance this year include: the Connecticut Apple Marketing Board giving out whole apples; the Connecticut Sheep Breeders Association providing a wool spinning and knitting demonstration, as well as information about the Connecticut Blanket Project; the Connecticut Poultry Association providing an omelet cooking demonstration and samples; and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station with a live honey bee display.
Other Connecticut agricultural industry service providers and organizations that will be attend include the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, the Connecticut Milk Promotion Board, and the Association of Connecticut Fairs.
The Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council has built a brand new tasting booth in the Connecticut building that offers greater visibility to visitors and increased functionality for participating farm wineries.
Participating wineries will be sampling wines on specific days but their wines will be available for purchase by the glass or bottle (to enjoy at home) during all 17 days of the fair.
New this year to the tasting booth will be Paradise Hills Vineyard from Wallingford. They will be joined by familiar favorites Jones Family Farms Winery, Jonathan Edwards Winery, Bishop’s Orchard Winery, Hopkins Vineyard, Lost Acres Vineyard, Taylor Brooke Winery, and Sunset Meadows Vineyards.
Also new this year will be frozen wine, otherwise known as frosé -– perfect for the hot weather days.
Woodlands White, an estate grown wine from the Jones Family Farms Winery in Shelton, CT, was named the Best Grape Wine, Best Connecticut Wine and Best Connecticut Grown Wine in the 2019 Big E Wine Competition. Try a sample on Friday, September 13th.
“Jones Family Farms Winery is very proud that our Woodlands White wine is a Gold Medal winner of the Annual Big E Wine Competition. Being recognized as both the Best Connecticut Wine, as well as Best Grape Wine is a tremendous honor,” said Jamie Jones of Jones Family Farms Winery. “Jones Winery is thrilled to participate at The Big E and the Connecticut building in support of promoting Connecticut farm wineries.”
The Harvest New England Association will again be coordinating Harvest New England Day at The Big E on Friday, September 27th. Harvest New England Day will include the Passport to New England Agriculture program where fairgoers can visit each state building along the Avenue of States, plus the New England Grange Building, to answer a trivia question and receive a stamp. Once their Passport card is full it can be redeemed at the New Hampshire or Massachusetts building to receive a Harvest New England tote bag.
For more information visit www.thebige.com or follow the DoAg Facebook page for daily updates.