Today?s county fair good for 4-H and FFA youth

There?s a county fair in the State of Washing?ton with a label reading as ?A memory of old-time agriculture related to the bustle of modern times.?

Now, what do they mean by that?

With the Marion County Fair coming to Hillsboro this month, are we supposed to think a county fair with its exhibits no longer relates to a modern agriculture dominated by no-till farming, genetic change coupled with chemical use, and changing demands in livestock care and markets?

With the go, go, go of modern lifestyle and eating out more of the time, does a fair have a place in life today?

The county extension agents have good answers to that because they believe what?s happening to the fair directly relates to what?s happening in the towns and on the farms.

One of the best first answers is that 4-H?and also FFA?are great youth activities for learning communication abilities, leadership and real applicable education, according to the agents.

Marion County Home Extension Agent Nancy Pihl said teachers frequently say youth in 4-H are more willing to speak up and participate in class. Their learning skills also are improved, she said.

Agricultural Extension Agent Rickey Roberts agreed that ?4-H and FFA are some of the really good youth-development programs that we have.

?The fair itself is a wonderful eductional activity as it relates to kids,? Roberts said.

Pihl said someone could try to make a case that the fair doesn?t relate to people as much as did 25 to 40 years ago, but that?s not entirely true because the fair changes to reflect modern life.

For instance, people may have done more homecooking in the past, she said, but even with the modern tendency to eat out, everybody is realizing the importance of knowing good nutrition just as 4-H projects can teach.

Nutrition awareness also changes the livestock exhibits at the fair, Roberts said. He explained that the livestock industry follows consumer demand, which is for leaner, less fat meat.

?The livestock types have changed. They absolutely relate to modern times,? Roberts said. ?The champion cattle of 40 years ago couldn?t win today. We have to stay current with the industry.

?There is no such thing as an industry
or a business standing still in this society. Everything is always changing, always evolving.

?We have to stay with the trends, make sure our projects are current. The cattle we show today aren?t the same even as they were 10 years ago,? he added.

Roberts said that many adult ex-4H members find that even the handling techniques in the ring change for the various classes of animals.

?It?s not the same as when I was a kid,? he said.

Even though at the fair it?s more often the young people who are showing, the exhibition and educational examples of the animals are there for the adults, too, Roberts said. Open classes are available for them.

The adults can also make crop entries or view booths dealing with crop systems, he said.

Pihl said many of the projects and the fair?s educational efforts deal with ?just basic life skills that are always the same.

?There?s setting goals, following through, deciding how and what to do, accomplishing and judging. These are helps in real life. They give purpose and help to be on your own.

?We may not always need to make our own clothes, but it may be important to know stain removal, clothing care and laundering,? she added.

Yes, even in this age the young people involved can go on to be farmers or any of a number of aspects in the agricultural industry, Roberts said.

But Pihl also pointed out that projects have led some Marion County young people into areas they may never have imagined. Who knows where skills such as photography and art may lead.

She knows one person who went into designing sets and costumes for community theaters.

She had another 4-H member who went into a career of restaurant baker management for a restaurant chain.

?There are a lot of careers in food service,? Pihl said.

It?s fair to say that anything can come from a fair as far as the county agents involved are concerned.


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