It’s county fair season and the 4-H kiddos are showing us the future leaders and providers for our communities. My husband grew up showing hogs and cattle in the 4-H livestock shows and selling them at the auction to raise money for his future farming endeavors. It has clearly worked out, as we now have over 200 head of cattle and raise thousands of turkeys every year.
We are proud and excited to support the 4-H tradition. Our county fair is held the weekend after 4th of July each year. It is always HOT and it always rains at least once. The 4-H Livestock show and other competitions are held on the first day of the fair. Starting at 7:00 a.m. members put a year’s worth of hard work on display.
4-H members show steers, hogs, sheep, and poultry. Some show their workmanship in competitions for sewing, arts and crafts, photography, painting, pottery, woodworking, metal working, gardening, and other trades. Ribbons are awarded based on the successfulness of their projects and showmanship. Blue ribbons continue to be the coveted prize of choice. In the livestock show, presenters hope to be crowned Grand Champion. The Grand Champion is the choicest animal in the competition and usually brings the highest price.
Those that earn blue ribbons in the non-livestock competitions have the opportunity to move on to competition at the State fair. It is quite an honor.
Showing a fair animal starts a year in advance. The animals are selected when they are young so that the presenter has plenty of time to feed, care, and train the animal for showing. These fair animals become a part of the 4-H member’s family (almost), as they are a daily part of the presenter’s life. This is a powerful practice for developing future farmers and a strong understanding of dedication and hard work. After feeding, grooming, and practicing showing, the presenters often send out or deliver invitations to people in the community inviting them to bid on their animal. It is a terrific lesson in marketing and confidence for these young people. As the animals are judged, the livestock judges explain to the exhibitors and audience the qualities of a champion animal. (It’s a livestock learning experience for everyone.)
On the day of the livestock show, my three kiddos and I were front and center for the ENTIRE show. We watched every hog, steer, sheep, chicken, and turkey go through the ring. We clapped and cheered for the presenters we knew and for all those who had worked hard to be there. (My kids are dreaming of the day when they are old enough to show.)
After the show, the 4-H staff scramble to put together the bidding list for the sale that evening. After a year of preparation and a long, hot day of exhibition, the livestock sale is the reward for each exhibitor’s hard work.
This year hubby and I purchased a hog from Megan, one of my former students. I had watched most of the livestock show along side Megan’s mom Holly. Holly told me about the work Megan had put in on her hog this year and how she was going to have a hard time letting him go, but the hug Megan gave me after the sale was proof that these kids understand gratitude for our support and relief that hard work does pay off. (I am ready for my pork chops, Megan. 😉 )
The most exciting part of our livestock sale came from our purchase of Ravyn’s steer. Ravyn is our 12 year-old neighbor and she wants someday to work on our turkey farm. After hubby placed the winning bid on her steer, I think every single person in their family hugged me and thanked us for buying Bobo (the steer). Ravyn gave me multiple hugs and proudly presented us with her certificate of purchase.
Ravyn’s whole family is a part of the 4-H program. They all participate in the meetings, the service projects, and most importantly the fair projects. While this was Ravyn’s first fair steer, at the age of 12, she is a veteran showwoman. She has shown two hogs previously. Her brother Ashton (age 10) is a three-year veteran at showing steers. Her sister Kila (age 10) celebrated her second year showing hogs and their sister Peighton (age 9) was the rookie this year showing her first hog. It was quite a treat watching each of them show and sell their animal. I don’t know how Sasha and Steven (mom and dad) slept that night from all the pride that had to be coursing through their veins.
At the end of the day, each exhibitor goes home with a participation award, another year of experience, and pride in what they accomplished. Some are awarded showmanship ribbons. (Ashton was one of those proud Showmanship Award recipients.) Many go home with a paycheck to put toward next year’s project or their future education or farming endeavors. This is how 4-H is showing and building the future.
As you are attending your local fairs this season, I encourage you to stop by the 4-H building and congratulate those exhibitors on their jobs well done. Take time to watch the livestock shows and cheer for the presenters. If you can, participate in the livestock auctions. You will be guaranteed a delicious reward for yourself, while serving up some pride and funds for future growth of those 4-H members.
The future of our world is dependent on the leaders and agricultural producers that are in 4-H today. Dedicating time and support for those kids is an investment in protecting our ability to have citizens who know what hard work is and a willingness to provide the food that goes on our plates.
By: Melanie A. Peters
P.S. To learn more about 4-H check out 4-H.org
P.P.S. Seriously, Sasha and Steven, your family is awesome. How do you sleep at night with all that awesomeness?