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Heifers at the county fair and growing for the future

In all counties in all corners of the U.S., urban and rural, we need a strong agriculture presence. The 4-H program and livestock remain a cornerstone for county fairs to flourish.

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Elizabeth Pinke, 14, speaks to the Grand Forks County 4-H livestock judge in the beef show on June 25 in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Laura Schweigert Photography/Laura Schweigert Photography
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Our daughters recently wrapped up year two of their 4-H beef projects. It required months of work to feed, lead and groom their Hereford heifers, Lottie and Rita, in preparation for the show ring.

Also, for the second year, Anika and Elizabeth’s heifers were the only cattle at our county fair.

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Elizabeth and Anika Pinke showed wait to show their Hereford heifers at the 2022 Greater Grand Forks County Fair alongside a fellow 4-H member friend, their dad, Nathan and cattleman uncle and an owner of Hereford cattle, Jim Huso.
Laura Schweigert Photography/Laura Schweigert Photography

We need more livestock at county fairs. We need a more robust 4-H presence at county fairs. In all counties in all corners of the U.S., urban and rural, we need a strong agriculture presence. The 4-H program and livestock remain a cornerstone for county fairs to flourish.

This was my ninth county fair with our daughters in two North Dakota counties. Here are three observations as a mom on the sidelines who wasn’t a 4-H member or active participant in a county fair as a youth:

  • County fairs need more 4-H members. Today, most 4-Hers buy their calf, pig, sheep or goat when the animal is a few weeks or months old, or they lease the animal for a period of time. Those who raise livestock from birth are only a small slice of agriculture.
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Elizabeth Pinke showing her Hereford heifer Rita on June 25, 2022.
Laura Schweigert Photography/Laura Schweigert Photography

Regardless of when ownership and care takes place, kids learn valuable life lessons preparing for the show ring, especially compared to playing video games or only focusing on sports in the summer.

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  • County fairs need volunteers. And the old guard who “has always done it this way” needs to open up to new ideas, leadership shifts and see that the future of the fair might look different than the past.

Those of us in agriculture need to step up to serve. To set an example and the tone of local ag leadership, farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals need to show up to volunteer at the county fair. Ask a county Extension or a fair board member and they will agree.

  • County fairs need infrastructure updates and donors who will back the projects. In many counties, we’re living off generations-ago support, and facilities need expensive upgrades and basic maintenance. If you’re not available to volunteer at the county fair, can you help fundraise this winter? Are you willing to donate toward the future of your county fair or 4-H members?

The next 4-H year starts in September, meaning preparation for the 2023 county fair starts this fall. Bring your ideas forward this year. Create actionable steps for the future of your county fair.
Our girls have recruited two fellow 4-H members to lease beef animals next year. If the four of them show together, we will double the number of beef animals at our county fair. Goals start small and grow each year through experience, dedication and the commitment to keep pushing forward.

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Anika Pinke, 12, walks out of the livestock barn pen to the show ring with her Hereford heifer Lottie at the Greater Grand Forks county fair on June 25, 2022. This is the second year Pinke and her sister have 4-H beef projects and have shown heifers at their local county fair.
Laura Schweigert Photography/Laura Schweigert Photography

Thank you to our friend, Laura Schweigert, for dedicating a Saturday afternoon behind her camera to capture these photos at the 2022 Grand Forks County 4-H livestock show. These photos are treasured 4-H memories I’ll cherish as a mom on the sidelines in the livestock barn.

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Katie Pinke

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

Related Topics: PINKE POSTRURAL LIFE
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