In barns and homes all across the United States, young people that are members of 4-H and FFA are starting to work on their Junior Fair projects. During our Wayne County Fair in September, we see the culmination of months of hard work and preparation as our youth exhibit their animals and educational projects. No doubt fair days can be long and busy for our youth, but the real hard work begins now, as we just passed our April 1st 4-H enrollment deadline in which youth designated which projects and clubs they would enroll in for this year.
4-H offers more than 200 educational projects for youth to choose from, ranging from all of the traditional livestock animals you see being exhibited at the fair like cattle, hogs, goats, horses, poultry, rabbits, and sheep, to dogs, rockets, gardens, cooking, sewing, woodworking, creative arts, and so much more. Many of these projects incorporate STEM lessons and topics that supplement, build on, and reinforce skills youth are learning in their school classrooms by giving them a fun, hands-on, real-world life application.
While our county fair is not until September, here in April our 4-H youth are now getting going on their projects – preparing the space or pens in their barn to receive their animals and selecting the specific animals they will work with, train, practice, groom, and prepare for the show arena. Many youth also already have their animals and have been working with them for several weeks or even months now. For example, youth taking Market Steers must have their animals in their care and possession by January 1st, so the youth taking those projects have already established routines for feeding and working with these animals.
Youth that work with breeding animals or performance animals like horses typically keep and work with their same project animals for multiple years whereas those with market animals that will end up in the food supply start with new animals each spring.
Our 4-H and FFA Junior Fair youth are currently in the process of completing Quality Assurance training virtually via ZOOM this year, where they learn about the science of how to properly care for, feed, and treat their animals. During Quality Assurance youth also learn about ethics and sportsmanship in the show arena.
Youth taking other educational projects such as cooking, rocketry, woodworking, or any of the others mentioned earlier are getting started reading through their project books, scoping out their goals for what learning activities they will complete, and diving into getting started on creating some of the artifacts or items they will make related to their projects. For example, a woodworking project to make a desk or dresser might require more than 100 hours of work spread over spring and summer. Similarly making a garment for a sewing project, depending on the type of garment, might also require many, many hours of work spread over several months.
So as we all look forward to a fun and adventurous summer that will lead to our great Wayne County Fair in the Fall – let us all be thinking of our hard-working and dedicated 4-H and FFA members working on preparing for the fair and may we all look forward to seeing the fruits of their labor come fair-time.
Doug Foxx is an OSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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