FAIRBANKS — Shortly after stepping inside the Kiwanis Agricultural Hall at the Tanana Valley State Fair on Friday afternoon, 13-year-old Steven Richmond began excitedly chanting, “First place, first place, first place ….,” while circling the newly judged vegetable and flower displays, inventorying his entries from the day before.
Close behind was his mother, Kathy Richmond, tallying her son’s ribbon colors and numbers — 21 blue ribbons, two red ribbons, five white ribbons and two purple class champion ribbons.
It didn’t take Steven long to add up his winnings: $5 for each first-place blue ribbon, plus an extra $2 if it also was a class champion; $3 for each second-place red ribbon; and $1 for each third-place white ribbon.
The result, a whopping $120 in prize money for helping his mother plant, water and tend the family garden, and build two small greenhouses.
“I helped her plant a lot, and I helped build the greenhouses,” said Steven, who also regularly watered three raised plant beds and three smaller garden patches scattered around the Richmond yard.
The garden work didn’t end there. Preparing and submitting all 27 entries for Thursday’s Junior Perishable Entry Day, also proved to be time consuming.
Mother and son spent approximately six hours, working together to select the best looking produce and flowers to enter, Kathy said.
That was after she managed to pull Steven out of bed so they could meet the perishable deadline on entry day.
“I was tired,” Steven said, but he agreed that the entry day’s effort was worth the prize money.
Once the young teen was satisfied that he had reviewed all of his entries, his interest quickly turned to how he was going to spend his prize winnings.
“I’m going to spend it all at the fair,” he said, while eyeing his mother to judge her reaction.
Kathy raised her eyebrows about advancing the total sum, suggesting that Steven save a portion.
However, those decisions are yet to be made, since fair premium payouts do not begin until the end of the week.
This isn’t the Ryan Middle School eighth grader’s first gardening venture. Last year, he worked for a small stipend on a summer garden at nearby Effie Kokrine Charter School that was overseen by Calypso Farm.
This year, Steven’s garden experience was continued under his mother’s direction, and the fair premium payoff was an added incentive.
“Not that many kids enter, and that’s too bad,” Kathy said. “I think it is good for kids to be involved.”
Kathy has been gardening for the past 16 years, expanding her garden beds over the years. She freezes and dehydrates produce and said she might try canning this harvest season.
Steven’s fair entries reflect a wide variety of vegetables and herbs since as Kathy states, “I grow a little bit of everything.”
Steven’s produce entries included the usual broccoli, rhubarb, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, etc. but also kohlrabi, sorrel, runner beans, tomatoes, sugar peas, lemon balm, leeks, mustard, collard greens and a variety of herbs.
Steven also put together a small prize-winning basket of produce mirroring the eclectic variety of produce possible in the sub-arctic.
“These were the second nicest things in the garden,” he explained. “The others got entered.”
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.