My wife and I spend a lot of time at the Indiana State Fair. We often visit the food tents sponsored by Indiana commodity groups. It supports the ag industry, and you usually get great food. Something seemed different when we had dinner at the Pork tent on the fairgrounds at a night during the Indiana State Fair last summer. The atmosphere seemed different. At a recent meeting of Indiana Pork, Josh Trenary, executive director, explained what was different, and it all made sense. He assured producers it will be different again in 2016, and for the better.
“Until the 2015 fair we had operated the Pork tents ourselves and used a firm that cooked the meats,” he explains. It got to where our staff was spending too much time on the fair tent projects. They’re supposed to be spending time on checkoff projects, not just working at the fair.
“The other problem was that we were having more trouble getting people to work the tents,” he says. “We wound up using people from temp agencies to fill in.”
In the beginning, many county pork groups would take a day working the tent. You knew you were dealing with friendly people, most of them are farmers and hog producers.
But here’s one example. Twenty years ago the Carroll County Pork Producers could fill a large hall at the fairgrounds. Today the same group could meet in a small room, maybe a big closet. The number of pigs hasn’t decreased, but number of hog producers has dropped.
“Last year we hired a concessionaire to run the tents,” he explains. “We had good feedback on one hand. People thought the tents were streamlined, and they moved people through faster. Lines were shorter. We also accomplished our goal of taking the workload off our people, and we didn’t have to resort to temp agencies. They took care of staffing.”
On the other hand, a good number of people commented that the food wasn’t as good as when the previous company cooked it. There was also another change that riled at least a few - soft drinks were no longer free. It seemed more like eating at any other fair stand.
“We’re addressing the quality of food issue, and we will have premium quality back for 2016,” he says. It’s likely that someone different than the concession company will cook the food, while the concessionaire will still handle staffing and operate the tents.
“We will have good products for people to eat, and we hope it works well again this year,” he concludes.