As 4-H educators, we have been receiving a lot of questions related to whether families should move forward with purchasing market livestock for fair. What if we don’t have a fair? What will I do with my animal? Or, the one that hurts the worst, what if I lose all my money?
My response to all these questions is a question itself. What are you in this for? What do you hope to gain?
If you are in 4-H so that your child can learn about the effort that goes into raising livestock and producing food animal products, get the animal.
If you are in 4-H so that your child can become a better citizen or learn about goal setting or gain effective leadership skills, get the animal.
If you are in 4-H so that your child can be a step above their peers, so that they can develop a sense of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity, get the animal.
If you are in 4-H so that your child can learn about resilience, determination and never giving up hope (even in the middle of a pandemic), get the animal.
But, if you are in 4-H so that your child can sell their animal for twice what you invested in it, don’t get the animal.
If you are in 4-H so that your child can bring home a big banner or a shiny trophy, don’t get the animal.
If you are in 4-H so that you can boast to co-workers and friends about how your child beat out 15 other people’s children to be the coveted “Grand Champion,” don’t get the animal.
Ultimately, if you do this thing called 4-H so that you can clean up at the county fair and earn awards, money and bragging rights, don’t get the animal. Because I can’t guarantee you those things this year.
I can only guarantee you this:
The agricultural community is powerful. The loyalty and camaraderie among us is bigger than words can describe. Even if we are unable to have fair in the traditional sense, we will do everything humanely possible to ensure youth have the opportunity to display their work. Whether it’s posters or videos or, fancier yet, virtual judgings, we will go to the ends of the Earth to save the 4-H experience for your children. We will work cooperatively with the Junior and Senior Fair Boards and Sale Committee to help with arrangements for animals. We will not strand you with a project; instead, we will work right alongside you to figure out where that animal can go. Whether it’s taking it to a packer five minutes up the road or loading it on a trailer headed halfway across the U.S., we will do the best job that we can to help you navigate the “end-game.” And lastly, we can guarantee you that your child will learn. That, despite limited club meetings or seven days at the county fair, your child will learn the important things. The things that matter. They will fill the days of this pandemic with hope as opposed to grief. Your child will develop a relationship with their animal(s) like they never have before, because, quite frankly, it’s one of the few things they have left.
Is there a chance their experience will be different this year? Yes.
Is there a chance they will lose money? Yes.
As a result, is their 4-H year a lost cause? Should they just give up?
I’ll leave that up to you.
The writer can be reached at the OSU Extension office (937-498-7239) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.