There’s something pretty incredible about county fairs, their communities, and the 4-H (and FFA!) kids who grow up alongside it all. Actually, there’s a lot that’s pretty incredible about the entire scope of this little world. Year after year, county fairs on small map dots make local and national headlines. And all because a proud, smiling youth with a project animal is the reason a local community reignites their spirits of generosity and selflessness. Something about these projects give the youth, and community, involved a deep appreciation for “making the best better.”
In Medina County, Ohio, two brothers made it into People Magazine when they sold their 230-pound market hog with the proceeds going directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Atop the auction block, enthusiastic bidders brought the price to a total of $3,000. But the crowd, inspired by the generosity, didn’t stop there. The auctioneer invited anyone else to add an additional dollar per pound to the sale. When all was said and done, $11,000 went directly to the hospital.
Such a tale isn’t unique. In the state’s Columbiana County, a girl announced the proceeds from her hog would be going to a friend fighting pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders with streptococcal infections to help her family with the treatment costs beyond the bounds of health insurance. Her hog went through the ring for $10.50/lb … only to be donated back and sold again for $45/lb. She raised over $10,000 for a friend in need.
An Indiana girl sold her Holstein feeder calf for nearly $10,500 thanks to a community who supported her fight with two autoimmune disorders. A similar thing happened in Ohio where over $23,000 was raised for the medical expenses of two siblings when they sold their market broilers and turkey.
Head over to Pennsylvania and you’ll find a girl who sold a $33,000 145-pound lamb for her step-father, a former 4-H member himself, who is fighting a brain tumor. Fly out to Oregon where there’s a boy who sold his hog for the Rett Syndrome Research Trust in honor of a cousin who lives with the syndrome, bringing in over $26,000 for the cause. His sister had done the same thing before him.
These are but a small handful of touching stories from this year alone. If one could go through the ages and catalog such instances of incredible youth doing amazing things at unsuspecting county fairs across the nation, I’m sure you’d have quite the book.
Of course these are all just good, charitable completely human things to do. But there’s such an unmistakable trend within these kinds of communities. And, why? No one explicitly goes to a county fair auction and intends to drop thousands of dollars on a standard market animal. But when a certain story and call to action is carried through the sale ring, there’s a certain inspiration and something changes.
We know agricultural youth programs are there to educate, inspire, build life skills and get a feel for the business of things. But perhaps there’s something deeper honed through the intimacy of hand-raising livestock in a supportive community. A child sending an animal across the auction block represents more than a summer’s project — it’s a small piece of themselves put into many long weeks of hard work and care. Wanting to selfless offer something like that goes above and beyond the character expected from individuals of such an age, an act which inspires even their elders to be more charitable than they knew they could be.
That little county fair is much more than a showcase of rural American life. It’s a building block of communities, futures and a part of humanity’s best. I think these stories, and others like them, give meaning to the Thomas Jefferson’s iconic words: “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.”
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.