Agriculture is the backbone of a nation, having one’s own food and water supply is vital. With bigger and larger corporations buying the farms, and farmers having to become bigger and bigger in order to afford equipment, it’s become more difficult for aspiring farmers to begin. However, there are those who aspire. Many of those who aspire begin with a small home farm, enhanced by 4 H and FFA training and teaching.
My children were in 4H and FFA, and even though I was married to a farmer, he worked 24/7 at the time. So I became a leader in small things like embroidery, art, entomology, things that I knew somewhat. I drove my daughter’s lambs around in my mini-van lined with Visqueen, go to the meetings and fairs, and learned to like being there. I was good at spraying water on the pigs to keep them cool, and buying food from fair vendors, and occasionally judge a category in the exhibit building. I was always exhausted after a fair. Even though I loved my children and their animals, it was always a happy day when the fair was over.
It is those neighbors who lead the livestock projects that make things go for those kids. They teach them discipline, how to sustain, train and groom animals. They teach them record keeping, veterinary requirements, how to speak about their animals to judges and buyers, how to show the animal and have good exhibit pen. Its amazing the time and knowledge that goes into just one fair project. They supply the equipment, the knowledge, the aid also to the parents who did not grow up on a farm or ranch.
The FFA teachers can provide amazing skills to the children. Along with livestock knowledge, the creed speaking, oral reasonings, contests… where they performed live before judges and crowds, thinking on their feet, speaking what they knew or did not know. Showmanship. Confidence. Many things that transfer into many areas of life.
Along with the project, is the community life, and the personal lives of the people participating. There is the friendships, comradery and competition amongst children between 9 and 18 years old. The story of each person, each family. What people are going through while they are preparing for the show, and hopefully, they will make their money back at the sale. Although some make a more-than-market price at the sale, some don’t. Along with the participating in fairs, some were preparing to leave home to go to college or work. Some dealing with illnesses in the family, or family difficulties. Big changes. Important parts of our lives. In the exhibit buildings, people are showing their beans and cucumbers, sewing and art. Many many skillful exhibits, with younger people being taught how to do all these things. The ranching skills, exhibited at the rodeos, the cowboy life. Young people taught by their families and neighbors, trained by the work itself.
“Community Fair” captured for me, the flavor of one aspect of the fairs. The pigs were amazing animals, my kids did well with them, taught by wonderful leaders. I understood this show. This painting is taken from a series of photos I took during several shows. I liked certain attitudes of spectators and the judge. I liked the varying styles of showmanship, remembering when my son won his buckle for swine showmanship. Learning about sportsmanship is also huge in the fair. Winning well, and losing well, is very important. Knowing that you do your best is too. Like art, there are many levels of “finish”, but the basics have to be met. Judging is always subjective. Well done is always well done.