Two weeks ago on Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of donning my collared Farm Bureau shirt (a true dress-up moment since most of my Farm Bureau business is conducted in jeans and T-shirts) and headed to the Trumbull County Fair livestock auction. My partner in crime, Richard Houk, has been a longtime supporter of the Trumbull County Fair and I was off to learn his trade secrets for the third year in a row.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to an auction. I remember being a little kid and on Thursday morning being bundled into the truck with a fried egg sandwich, that Grandma had made, and heading to the Bloomfield sale. I don’t ever remember Grandpa buying a single thing, but I fell in love with the sound of the auctioneer at a young age. We would sit in those rundown stands watching cow after cow, steer after steer and sheep after sheep parade through that ring for hours. I never quite knew how long we stayed, but as a little kid, I can remember never wanting to go home. The auctioneer’s voice had such a soothing quality to it and I was fascinated by how the ringmen knew who was in the bidding war just by the small gestures the men would make.
I always wanted to buy something, but never had the nerve to raise my hand. Smartly too; the auctioneer and ringmen probably would have ignored a 4-year-old sitting with her grandparents. However, last Saturday, just like the two years prior, I was going to get to buy some animals that had been raised by local children for a worthy cause. I had a trusty guide, market prices, a budget and a general idea of what we would need to buy meat-wise for the upcoming events that the Trumbull County Farm Bureau will be holding.
See, the awesome thing about our organization is, we believe in giving back. So if you attend the annual meeting, which is Aug. 10 at Enzo’s Restaurant on Elm Road in Warren (you must RSVP to the Farm Bureau office), you have a pretty good (90 percent) chance of taking home some awesome meat raised by local 4-H and Farm Bureau members’ kids!! That is the cool part about buying at the Trumbull County livestock auction for Farm Bureau.
My job, as taught to me by Mr. Houk, is to make sure that our members’ kids animals do not go for less than market price. Now, keep in mind, in the last couple of years that has been pretty easy. Sale prices are high and market prices are low. On that Saturday, in particular, resale hogs were going from 44 cents to 66 cents a pound, and at our sale, the lowest price was $1.25! During the years when I was showing (way too long ago), sometimes your were lucky to make the sale price of 89 cents because the market prices were below $20 per hundredweight. That meant for a 200-pound hog, the seller made less than $40. This was in 1998 and when people sold their hogs for a dollar or so at the sale, kids were ecstatic. Many kids that year learned that in farming, you don’t always make a profit. Sometimes you take a loss. Farm Bureau membership paid off in those years when Richard Houk and Paul Aaron made sure to help out Farm Bureau kids by getting them over market value.
Therefore, it is in that tradition that Richard Houk is training me. I had many kids come up and ask me to buy their animals, the reality being that my hands were tied because their parents were not members. I sometimes hear people ask what we do; my answer is always that we support local and national agriculture. While we are working hard on trying to create local policies that will benefit everyone, we also work behind the scenes, like during the auction to make sure that our members get every benefit possible.
While we did not get every animal that we bid on, we were second bidders on many animals to help raise the price for our members. Eventually, we ended up purchasing three hogs, three pens of chickens and one turkey. Some of the meat will be awarded as door prizes to members during the annual meeting and the rest will be served as dinner for an event we are holding later in the year.
While the immediate benefits of Farm Bureau are not always visible to some, it is in these moments where I am proud to say I am a Farm Bureau member!
Submitted by Christen Clemson a Trumbull County Farm Bureau member, who has completed her Ph.D at the Pennsylvania State University and farms with her family in Mecca Township.