“Having the opportunity to attend the first DC State Fair was a real thrill for me,” says J. Mark White, a DC native who was one of the first winners of the inaugural DC State Fair held last August. Mark won first place in the Funkiest-Looking Vegetable contest for his round, tiger-striped Lemon Cucumber. Although he initially thought there was no way he’d win anything, “I wanted to participate, which was much more important to me than winning, so I nervously brought my veggies to the Fair,” he says. “I later realized a few of my veggies really were different than what you’ll see at Safeway or Whole Foods.” His bravery and adventurous choice in vegetables to grow paid off with a handsome blue ribbon, prizes, and fame. “I proudly keep my first-place blue ribbon for Funkiest-Looking Vegetable hanging in my kitchen!” he says.
Mark is a landscape architect who works in the DC area, but he has only been vegetable gardening (and only in containers) since 2009. His inspiration to start container vegetable gardening came from a Twitter friend, Kerry Michaels, AKA @containergarden. In 2009, he planted four containers; four became eight in 2010; and this year, Mark says he’s planting “10 containers of veggies and other edible delights,” some hopefully slated to be entries in DC State Fair! (Mark is looking for ideas of new vegetables to grow in his containers, so tweet him some ideas!)
Twitter played an integral role in getting word out about the inaugural DC State Fair. Mark, who tweets as @gardenwiseinc, first found out about the Fair via Twitter, but as soon as he did, “a lot of people around me were talking, posting, and tweeting about it, and the excitement just grew and grew. You know when something gets on your radar screen and then it’s everywhere? That’s what happened with DC State Fair.”
Twitter may have been the start of the waterfall that got Mark out to the Fair in August, but his passion for community kept him there as a volunteer. After dropping off his contest entries, he asked whether the DC State Fair organizers needed any help–and was immediately put to work with the taxing job of helping judge the cupcake and pie contests. “I was like a kid in a candy store!” Mark says. “I loved it. I’m so in awe of the wonderfully amazing and creative people who live in DC and who helped create the DC State Fair. I was proud to be a part of it, even in a small way.”
“I can’t wait to attend the fair this year, with my container veggies and pie in tow,” Mark says when asked what he’ll be entering this year. “Yes, pie! I learned how to bake a pretty darn good apple pie this year.” His inspiration to get creative and start baking pies? The DC State Fair-winning “Fruits of the Forest” pie by Lindsey Wahowiak.