This time of year, all across the country, counties are setting up for their annual fairs. Members of 4-H and FFA â€“â€“ a national organization dedicated to agriculture education â€“â€“ are readying their animals, vendors are moving in and the community members are gathering for a week of fun.
County fairs are a great opportunity for people to learn about agriculture. From the animals to the exhibits, fairs educate people and their families.
One of the biggest draws at county fairs are the animal exhibits. Students aged 8 to 21 raise almost all of the livestock, spending the entire summer preparing their animals.
Some critics of fairs think that these students simply raise animals for money. But if you take time to talk to any of them, you will soon find out that is not true.
Having an animal project allows young people to learn about responsibility and accountability. Many students pick out and pay for their own animals, along with the feed and equipment needed to raise them.
The students must take time each day to work with and learn about the animals so they can show them the best they can during fair. The animals have names and are spoiled by the students who raise them.
The students are required by their chapters to keep record books, which track the expenses and revenues of the project. This teaches them to keep financial records, so they can determine at the end if they made a profit or not.
When it comes time to go to fair, the students must take even more care of the animals, since they are not at home, plus grooming and showing. They must make sure the animals are clean and comfortable, so members of the community can see the hard work they have done.
The experience of raising livestock for fair is about so much more than the money, and students who have raised animals learn valuable life lessons.
Raising an animal that is not a pet allows students to learn about production agriculture and everything involved in the process.
But many children, especially those raised in urban areas, will never get this opportunity. Going to the fair can fill this void, whether you are 5 or 50.
When attending the fair, make sure to check out all of the different species, from the goats to the rabbits. Feel free to ask the students about their projects, as most love to talk about it.
There are many other things to see at the county fair that helps connect you to agriculture. Community members submit entries for home grown vegetables, jams, homemade clothing and other projects.
For CSU students, there are opportunities outside of the local county fair to learn about raising animals.
Each fall, members of the Block and Bridle club put on Little National Western, where students learn to show pigs, sheep, beef cows or dairy cows. All instruction and equipment is provided for a small entry fee, and students from all backgrounds can learn how to show an animal they may have never had the opportunity to do before.
Seek out these opportunities and support your local county fair. It provides a lot of opportunities for students to learn and grow and a chance for you to learn about agriculture.
Robyn Scherer is a graduate student pursuing a masterâ€™s degree in integrated resource management. Her column will appear periodically throughout the summer. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.