State fair highlights healthy foods

The Healthy Farms-Healthy Families exhibit at the North Carolina State Fair brought together the idea of healthy eating and exercise.

The exhibit highlighted information from a variety of sources on exercise and healthy foods. It was one of the featured exhibits at the State Fair's 150th year.

The 2003 version of the fair took in nearly $8.8 million over the 10-day event. That was an increase of 49 percent over the 2002 event. More than 833,000 people came through the gates in 2003.

In 1853, the North Carolina Agricultural Society created the fair as a way to introduce farmers to new crop and livestock techniques. Just inside the exhibit tent, the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association offered fresh endame soybeans to visitors. The edible soybeans are widely used for snacks in Japan and represent one of fastest growing markets for producers. The exhibit “Max Glycine and the Case of the Vanished Man” showed ways that soy-based foods can help fight obesity. Soybeans are produced on more than 1 million acres in North Carolina, more than any other crop in the state.

An outdoor roadside market was a centerpiece of the exhibit. It highlighted many of North Carolinas popular commodities and drew support from the North Carolina Apple Growers Association, the North Carolina Egg Council, North Carolina Pork Producers, North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, North Carolina Grape Council and the North Carolina Watermelon Association.

Duke University's Diet and Fitness Center, North Carolina Department of Agriculture, North Carolina Fisheries Association, NASA's Langley Research Center, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and USDA-APHIS, among others, had exhibits at the Healthy Farms-Healthy Families, emphasizing the connection between healthy eating and exercise.

The North Carolina State Fair is the largest event in the state with an annual average attendance of 700,000.

Over the years, it has attracted three presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Gerald Ford and George H. Bush and entertainers such as the late Bob Hope.

Fairgoers over the years saw the first use of electricity in Raleigh and the first use of the telephone at the State Fair.

Its roots, however, remain largely agricultural. All told, the State Fair has awarded more than $500,000 in premium money in livestock, horticulture and other competitions.

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