Thursday kicked off the 81st annual Placer County Fair and many visitors are heading directly to the carnival’s roller coaster, the food areas or to see Arden Park Roots at the show stage.
But a few hundred hard-working youth in 4-H at the barn and still exhibits areas hope fairgoers will also stop at the livestock area and stay for a while.
The youth are continuing the tradition created by 4-H club members in Douglas County, Minnesota in 1902, when they first showed their livestock at a fair.
Today, 116 years later, should we care about the 4-H livestock exhibits?
We should definitely care, said Shannon Kane, a 4-H community education specialist with University of California Cooperative Extension who works with Placer County youth. The scores of youth between the ages of 9 and 19 at the fair’s livestock area work all year preparing for this event.
“These kids are up before school working to make sure their animals are fed, have fresh water and a clean area,” Kane said. “After school, they’re working with their animals and then again on weekends. They have to work with the animals all the time.”
The students learn valuable skills through the 4-H program that culminates at the Placer County Fair with showing and/or selling their animals.
“Close to half our kids that do our Placer County 4-H program participate in the livestock exhibits. Youth selling animals also do showmanship with their animals,” Kane said. “A big piece of the animal program is educating youth on the complete care of the animals, including rabbits, cavy (guinea pigs), poultry, swine, goats, sheep and cows.”
The students learn first-hand how to be successful in business.
“They’re looking at details like what animal is going to sell the best or which animal has the best structure if they’re buying. They learn how to budget by creating a budget for their animal project for the year,” Kane said. “Cows can be up to a two-year project. A lot of these kids work and save money to fund their project.”
Visiting the youth and their animals should be a fair highlight for all ages.
“The animals are always fun to go see. It’s nice to support youth who have dedicated so much time and money into something that feeds our country. The meat purchased (at Saturday’s 10 a.m. Junior Livestock Auction) goes into our stores and restaurants throughout the state.”
Some 4-H students, growing up on family ranches, help their parents and grandparents daily and are experts about the animals. They enjoy answering fairgoers’ questions.
Placer County has always had a rich agriculture industry. Although the industry is not as prominent here today, many of the fair youth will be our food providers within a decade or two.
“These kids are our future,” Kane said. “These kids are working really hard to learn lifelong skills.”
Much of the credit goes to the national 4-H organization, which from its beginnings in the early 1900s is now the largest youth development organization in the country.
“Today, 4‑H serves youth in rural, urban, and suburban communities in every state across the nation. 4‑H’ers are tackling the nation’s top issues, from global food security, climate change and sustainable energy to childhood obesity and food safety,” the 4-H website states. “4‑H out-of-school programming, in-school enrichment programs, clubs and camps also offer a wide variety of STEM opportunities — from agricultural and animal sciences to rocketry, robotics, environmental protection and computer science — to improve the nation’s ability to compete in key scientific fields and take on the leading challenges of the 21st century.”
The 4-H students have a head-start in the agricultural field. Through the program, starting at age 9, they learn how to care for their animals, what nutrition to give them and how to check their health.
Today, the nonprofit 4-H has even more to offer students, including cooking, well-being, outdoor adventures, knitting and science projects.
And 4-H is inexpensive to join at $66 per year for students. Scholarships are also available.
Although it’s obviously too late for new 4-H members to participate in this week’s Placer County Fair, it’s a great time to check out the current 4-H members’ projects at the fair. Registration for any of the 12 Placer County 4-H clubs, which is part of the University of California Cooperative Extension, opens in July.
Through Sunday, make sure to make the barn, Still Exhibits and Kids’ Zone areas part of your fair destinations.
“Our kids are there early in the morning. They work really hard to make sure the barns are clean. It’s fun. Sometimes you see animals you’ve never seen,” Kane said. “Our kids are happy to have kids pet them. It’s a neat opportunity to see a part of our state you never get to see up and close.”