Games, rides, music, lights, entertainment and the endless amount of battered, deep-fried and delicious fair food. For most, that is what the county fair is all about, but for many others, the county fair is so much more.
The barns and fairgrounds become a home for the exhibitors and their families for that week. It is the moment that the countless hours of caring for their livestock pay off. Showing an animal is one of the greatest things our youth can do. Being responsible for another living thing is important. Walking through the barns last week took me back to some of my favorite memories. The fair is where I was reunited with friends whom I only saw at the county fair, playing cards in the barn, sleeping next to my steers and showing off all the hours I worked on training them.
There is one day of the fair that is a bittersweet day. Quite frankly, for some, it’s downright heart-wrenching: auction day. It’s the day when many kids must say goodbye after a year or maybe even more of intense training and untold hours of feeding and caring for an animal. It’s a day when they hope all that hard work literally pays off.
I was so proud of those kids this weekend as I sat with the Trumbull County Farm Bureau at the livestock sale. I didn’t see one tear in that ring. (The barns were a different story though).
I wish I had been that strong. I think my parents and the buyers had wished I was, too. I remember crying for months before the fair, not being able to even see who bought my steer through the tears in my eyes at the sale and sitting at the derby on Saturday night with puffy eyes, feeling heartbroken.
The steers I showed were born and raised on my farm, so I was always very attached. I spent more time in the barn than I did in my house and more time with them than I did my human friends. It’s inevitable to become attached, and letting go is not an easy thing.
Having projects in 4-H provides many opportunities, leadership skills and life skills that these kids hold onto well into their adult lives. 4-H helped shaped me into the leader I strive to be every day.
Not everyone takes market projects. Some may take breeding stock. There are also many projects that don’t involve animals at all; yet for those that do, important lessons come from those experiences.
The kids learn about genetics, nutrition, animal health, record keeping, cost inputs and potential profits and even the reality of a loss. Many learn how to care for another living creature. They experience firsthand patience, compassion and responsibility. These kids learn about the circle of life and all the aspects that go into producing the food we eat. 4-H projects provide our youth with the skills to lead for a lifetime.
I witnessed a community come together Saturday to support these amazing kids and their hard work. I saw the kids beam with appreciation as they thanked the buyers and even the bidders for their support. I watched buyers justify paying well above average market prices — because they believe in more than the animal. They believe in supporting the experiences, memories, skills and life lessons that you can’t get anywhere other than the county fair.
Thank you to everyone who made who Saturday possible, and if you’ve never experienced the county fair livestock auction, I highly encourage you to join us next year.
Submitted by Mandy Orahood, the Ohio Farm Bureau organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull Counties. She can be reached by email.
OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.