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Judging jams, jellies for inaugural Hall County Farmers Market County Fair
Fifth-grader wins initial 4-H contest
Ginger Bennett chooses Katlynn Johnson’s strawberry jelly recipe as the winner of the first Hall County Farmers Market County Fair. - photo by SAVANNAH KING

For Katlynn Johnson's winning recipe, click here.

“That’s pretty,” Ginger Bennett said holding the jar of purple jelly in front of her face.

You should be able to see through jelly, she said, turning the jar in the sunlight before setting it on the table.

Bennett served as guest judge for the Hall County 4-H Club’s first Hall County Farmers Market County Fair on Saturday morning.

Though the gray sky threatened rain, families shopped for fresh produce under the pavilion at the Hall County Farmer’s Market on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville. While parents bought vegetables and fruit, children stopped to play games set up by the clubs’s members. The members ranged in age, most in between sixth and 12th grades.

“This offers leadership for our 4-H’ers,” said Judy Tilford, Hall County Extension Agent and 4-H Club Youth Development. “That’s of course an important part of what we do in 4-H, leadership and citizenship.”

Several 4-H members and a few adults submitted canned entries into the fair’s first canning contest. The contest had divisions for salsa, pickles, jam and jelly.

“It’s a new program and we’re looking at it as a way for the young kids to get back into preserving foods,” Tilford said. “Right now, they think a can of green beans comes from the grocery store.”

Since the program was just getting started, Tilford said the contest was a little light in contestants, but she hopes it will grow in the coming years.

Jelly seemed to be the most popular method of preservation, at least with the club’s younger members.

Bennett took her time examining the four jars of jam and jelly presented by members who were not present for the judging. She praised the good qualities of each jar and jotted down the areas needing improvement.

Before moving to the next jar, she dipped a spoon into the jelly and gave it a final taste test. Tasting, she said, can be dangerous if the jelly or jam wasn’t made correctly. The first jar tasted tart, but not in a bad way.

“But the thing about jams and jellies is that the sugar is the preservative,” Bennett said. “I’d wonder how long this one might last on the shelf.”

Bennett made her way through the other entries and awarded a first-place prize to Katlynn Johnson, a fifth-grade student at Tadmore Elementary.

Katlynn entered two of her homemade jellies into the contests, one made from pears and the other from freshly picked strawberries from a local farm. She included a notebook detailing how she made her jellies and photos documenting her process.

In one photo, Katlynn holds her arm up revealing a bright red streak she got by accidently brushing her arm against the hot stove. Katlynn said the burn hurt a little bit but “it got better.”

Katlynn said she enjoys making jelly and thinks other kids would like to make the sweet treat, too.

The bottom line, Katlynn said, is “It’s fun.”