4-Hers get ‘homemade’ pies ready for next week’s fair

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 21 July 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Kristina Gabalski – A group of busy volunteers and 4-H’ers makes pies in the Trolley Building on the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds on Saturday. Pie-making volunteers met four times over the past two months to assemble and freeze pies to be baked and sold by the slice at the Leader’s Pie Stand during fair week, July 27-Aug. 1.

KNOWLESVILLE – Visitors to next week’s Orleans County 4-H Fair will get more than a tasty treat when they stop by the Leader’s Pie Stand. Those pies also support the 4-H youth program.

Thanks to the efforts of 4-H’ers, families and volunteers, slices of pie sold this year have been made by hand instead of being store bought.

For many years, 4-H families were able to bring pies made at home for the stand, but three years ago, County Health Department rules changed, meaning that pies donated to the stand had to be baked in a Health Department-approved kitchen.

The result was a challenge for volunteers and 4-H families and disappointing for fairgoers who wanted to find homemade pie at the stand.

Alexis Brege, 13, proudly displays a blueberry pie she made during the July 18 Pie Making Workshop at the fairgrounds. Alexis will be able to enter the pie in the fair before it is taken to the Leader’s Pie Stand and sold by the slice. In addition to making pies for the Leader’s Pie Stand, the Pie Making Workshop was an opportunity for 4-Hers and their families to learn pie-making skills.

“The first year, we bought 90 percent of the pies,” says Jennifer Batt, who helps to organize volunteer staffing for the stand and has worked as “project manager” to bring the number of “homemade” pies back up to 100 percent.

The 100 percent goal has been accomplished through a series of four pie-making workshops held on Saturdays and Sundays in June and July at the Trolley Building kitchen at the fairgrounds. The Trolley Building kitchen is Health Department approved.

During the workshops, pie crust was made, rolled out, with fruit fillings prepared and pies assembled before being frozen. The pies will be baked fresh throughout the fair.

Batt says last year, the “homemade” to purchased pie ratio was about 50/50.

“We won’t have to buy any this year,” she says, and notes that as of the final pie-making workshop July 18, 75 pies had been assembled. About another 45 pies will be made before and during fair to make sure there is an ample supply and variety for hungry fairgoers.

Fruit was donated for the effort by local growers. Rock Ledge Farm in Medina donated cherries; HH Dobbins Cold Storage in Lyndonville donated apples; and Brown’s Berry Patch in Waterport donated elderberries and blueberries.

Because pies are frozen before they are baked, freezer space was also an issue in meeting the goal.

A blueberry pie awaits its top crust.

At the end of June, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension Program Director Jennifer Wagester sent out an email to 4-H families and leaders seeking the loan or donation of a freezer to help hold the growing number of pies. Just three hours later, a 4-H family had donated a large chest freezer to help in the pie effort.

All proceeds from sales at the Leader’s Pie Stand go to fund 4-H activities and award trips – none of the proceeds are used for administrative costs or operating expenses, Wagester said.

The Leader’s Pie Stand will be open from noon to 10 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday during the fair.

A blueberry pie with a crumb crust made awaits wrapping and boxing before it is frozen in advance of next week’s fair.