• Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    Tales from the Livestock Barn ~ Washington County Fair

    Although I live in neighboring Madison County, I was thrilled when I was asked to write something about the Livestock Barn for the Washington County Fair. Full disclosure: In exchange for this post, the Washington County Fair is supporting the promotion of local agriculture by making a donation to my Moms on the Farm program – but my words and enthusiasm for the fair are all mine.

    When you bring your family to the fair, it may be a little intimidating to enter the livestock barn. There are sure to be a few sights and sounds (and smells) that your family may not be used to. Since my 4H kid is only 7, we are new to the world of being a livestock show family. So, I reached out to some other, more seasoned livestock show moms from Northwest Arkansas and around the country to get their input on the things they think you should know about the Livestock Barn.

    My little 4Her with her
    first calf, Water Lilly.

    The kids showing the animals are in charge of cleaning up the poop, but it’s a full time job. The first year my daughter took her calf to the fair, she was especially excited about getting to clean it up! She was about 3 or 4 and that excitement hasn’t really faded… yet. Here are a few tips:
    • Don’t wear your favorite pair of white shoes.
    • Poop can be a little slippery, so be careful. 
    • Wash your hands or use hand-sanitizer after you leave.

    A sheep isn't truly clean until
    everyone in the family is soaked
    Family time.

    When I was growing up, we didn’t go on vacation to Disneyland or the beach. We went to livestock shows. The animals are the kids’ projects, but it’s really a FAMILY endeavor. Hundreds of hours are spent together (mom, dad, brothers and sisters), working for a common goal of presenting an animal at the fair.
    Success in the Livestock Barn is a family accomplishment. When our family won at the show, it wasn’t my ribbon or my trophy, it was OURS.

    Small kids – BIG animals 
    My daughter loves to show off her
    show calf and have her friends pet it,
     but not all animals are so gentle
    and tolerant of little people.

    Livestock can be a little scary! The kids showing animals have spent hours and hours working with them getting them ready for the show. They know each other quite well and the animals are used to being handled by their owners. But, even gentle animals can bite, and even when an animal is comfortable with some kids, he or she may not be ok with all kids. Always ask for the owner’s permission before petting any animal in the livestock barn.

    Good to know: There is a great petting zoo at the Washington County Fair where your kids can pet ‘til their heart’s content

    Jenny sent this picture of two of
    her boys with the their dairy cattle
    at the county fair in Illinois.
    Teachable moments.

    The kids who are showing animals want to show off their hard work to everyone at the fair, not just the judges. If the kids are around, be sure to ask them about their animal. Ask the animal’s name, what it eats, where it came from, how old it is… You will be amazed what you will learn from these kids.

    My friend and fellow 4H mom, Jenny Schweigert said it best, Last week's county fair was very successful, but my favorite moment wasn't the ribbons or trophies. It was when our middle son kneeled down with a little girl he didn't know and started explaining the difference between dairy cattle and beef cattle.

    Lots of smiles. Maybe a few tears.

    Vallie and her calf last year
    For the kids showing animals at the fair, it’s like the District Championship game for kids who play sports - It’s a Really Big Deal. They’ve been working all summer in the heat and the mud getting their animals ready, and some will go home with lots of ribbons and trophies, but some won’t. Sometimes the animals act up and sometimes the judge doesn’t see it the way we do. It’s hard and frustrating (for kids and parents) when it doesn’t go the way you wanted it to.
    But at the end of the fair, it’s not the prizes that matter. It’s the sense of accomplishment. It’s the family time. It’s the lifelong friendships. It’s the lessons learned. It’s teaching new people about how their food is produced. 
    When you visit the livestock barn, you are not just seeing the animals. You are seeing the next generation of agriculture. You are witnessing the development of the people that will feed the world for years to come.

    Let’s go to the fair!

    The fair is letting me give away some ride tickets to a lucky local reader! Share a comment on this post about your favorite memory of a county fair to be entered to win $50 worth of ride tickets

    (Info about entry prices can be found here). If you haven’t gone to a fair before, tell me what you hope to see or do at the Washington County Fair this year on your first visit. I’ll choose a winner at random from the folks who enter and be in touch to get your tickets to you.

    The Washington County Fair has posted a schedule online, and also provides information about being a part of the fair by entering their contests and competitions through their Exhibitor Handbook.

    Keep up to date on happenings at the fair by following them on social media at one (or all!) the links below:

    Be sure to search the #MyWCF15 hashtag on social media to see what other folks are doing at the fair.