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4-H lives on!

Local youth gather support despite cancellation of fair

PHOTO PROVIDED Josie, left, and Jack Crawford hold their 4-H animals.

Always looked forward to in August, the Clinton County Fair was canceled in early May due to COVID-19, leaving many disappointed, including local youth involved in 4-H clubs.

Some county youth were left holding lead ropes, grooming tools, projects and displays, and asking themselves what was to become of all their hard work now and how would they be able to showcase and sell their animals.

Not wanting the kids to feel all their hard work was for naught and they wouldnt be able to sell their livestock, a grassroots effort emerged from this unfortunate news — 4-H isn’t going to be canceled. These youth are going to go on, and they have help to be sure their hard work isn’t lost.

“This has not been the 4-H year that any of us — youth, parents, volunteers, or extension educators — planned for or hoped for. Although many of our in-person events and competitions will not be able to be held, the 4-H year has not been canceled,” Kristen Dubbs, educator and, 4-H and Youth Development instructor with the Clinton County Penn State Extension said.

4-H club members Lane and Addison Harbach started their livestock project in October the year before. They are raising steers and pigs for their 4-H club project.

PHOTOS PROVIDED A family of rabbits, left, and a pair of pigs are among the animals 4-H kids raise every year.

“The kids were kind of left asking ‘what am I supposed to do now,'” their dad Doug said. “I mean the fair was canceled around the time that most kids had just got their pigs. As for the steers they have a lot of time and money invested into them by then.”

Doug is a member of the Clinton County Livestock Committee, and he said when they really knew it was being canceled the committee had to come up with a way to get kids something out of their hard work and commitment.

“We hesitated sending the kids out to the businesses who have supported them throughout the years to solicit,” Doug said. “Because these were the businesses being affected by what was going on and struggling.”

The 4-H clubs, livestock committee and extension worked closely with the Clinton County Fair board to find a solution.

“We talked about how we could still do something. We didn’t rule out the fact that maybe early on we could have a show and sale, but the fair board said with all the regulations they were having to adhere to they didn’t think it would be possible,” he said. “The fair board had great concern about the 4-H kids who had time and money invested.”

PHOTOS PROVIDED A family of rabbits, left, and a pair of pigs are among the animals 4-H kids raise every year.

The idea of possibly putting together an online show and sale were explored, but didn’t seem feasible.

Dubbs explained that Penn State Extension and Pennsylvania 4-H Program administration have been proactive in anticipating possible in-person event cancellations and developing alternatives whenever possible.

“Locally, I as (a) 4-H educator stayed in close contact with representatives of the Clinton County Fair Association, as well as the Clinton County Youth Livestock Sale Committee, both to stay abreast of developments and then to plan for alternatives when the fair cancellation was announced,” she said.

Some 4H-ers had already begun arrangements for their livestock through private sale once they heard the fair was canceled.

Jack, age 6, and Josie Crawford, age 10, of Loganton were raising meat rabbits and meat chickens for show and sale.

PHOTO PROVIDED Cows are also popular animals among 4-H kids.

Their mom, Jenn, said they saw the cancelation of the event coming. So they had planned to use the meat chickens for their family. As for the rabbits, they are still looking for someone to purchase them, as they are selling for breeders — as they would at the fair.

“With the rabbits we would like to sell them for breeders or pets if we could. We hope to be able to sell what we can,” she said. “We might have to just take them to the butcher for us.”

“We encouraged as many 4Hers to go ahead and move forward to find private buyers and make arrangements with local processors to get the (livestock) processed,” Doug said as part of a three-prong approach.

“Penn State Extension staff developed materials to help youth direct-market their animals to consumers, rather than sending them through fair livestock sales,” Dubbs said. “The Clinton County Youth Livestock Sale Committee has done a great job sending materials out to the livestock buyer list they maintain to make buyers aware of the fair’s cancellation and the opportunity to buy from youth directly. I’ve done my best to help to connect interested buyers with youth who have animals to sell.”

“Businesses that would like to support 4-H kids, but don’t want an animal can make a tax deductible donation to the Clinton County Livestock Sale Committee. It can be targeted toward certain kids or divided up among all 4-H livestock kids,” Doug said.

Doug is the contact person for those donations.

“For these businesses that supported over the years, they still can support 4-H and their donation can be distributed any way, like for instance an amount to a certain three kids or just an amount across the board,” Doug said.

Another option is the Penns Valley-Jersey Shore Livestock Auction. Many refer to them as the sale barn with locations in Centre Hall and Jersey Shore. The Centre and Clinton County Youth Livestock Sale will be held on Aug. 15 at the Penns Valley Livestock Auction, Centre Hall.

This event will feature 4-H youth’s livestock from the two counties.

Mandy Eckert, sale coordinator, whose family has been part of the livestock industry for countless years in Centre and Clinton counties, and owns the livestock sale barns, has always supported and been part of 4-H.

“My dad has always supported 4-H kids,” she said. “When we knew the fairs were being canceled, we discussed as a family how we could have a sale for the kids. We have the facilities to do that and we wanted to give an option for these kids. We know the time and work and money that go into these animals.”

“These kids need to take that money and turn it around and use it for an animal for next year, or most won’t be able to have a livestock project for next year. For most of the kids, if there was no sale and only getting market value for the animal or less, they won’t have the funds to continue next year,” she pointed out.

The auction is open to the public and Eckert said new buyers and past support buyers are all welcomed.

In addition there will be an add-on table where someone can add extra support to buying a 4-Her’s animal and make additional funds to any 4-Her or exhibitor as a monetary donation.

“We want people to come to support these kids. We want buyers, we need buyers and they ultimately keep it going. The buyers don’t have to be from those counties. They can be anyone from anywhere,” she said.

There are options for buyers, too. The event has made arrangements with several local processors for animals bought at the sale.

This will also be open for Future Farmers of America youth from those counties.

In a normal fair year, animals sold at the Clinton County Fair Youth Livestock Sale would go directly to local processors (butchers) for processing on buyers’ behalf,” Dubbs added.

“However, COVID’s effect on larger processors everywhere has affected smaller processors as animals that might otherwise have gone to large packing plants are redirected to smaller local shops,” she said. “The end result is that local processors are busier than they’ve ever been, making scheduling processing for 4-H market animals a challenge.”

Dubbs points out that Mark’s Custom Meats, local processor in Howard, has and is always extremely supportive of 4-H and FFA projects.

“Owners Mark and Kim Bair have gone out of their way to make room for some of our youth market animals to be processed in August,” she said. “Our 4-H families certainly appreciate their generosity.”

Families who choose to be part of it are independent of their 4-H involvement, Dubbs added.

“These kids have had a tough year with everything overall … being out of school this long. They’ve worked hard with their animals while at home and we want them to get the most value out of their animals,” Eckert said.

Doug said the sale is great for kids who may only be coming into 4-H for the first year and not have supporters. This gives them options, he said.

“I think that this will be a difficult year for all of us, but I think it will be one of tremendous personal growth for all of our youth,” Dubbs said. “And I think this experience will make all of us value in-person contests and educational programs that much more when we’re able to hold them again.”

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Interested buyers can find more on the Facebook page under Jersey Shore and Penns Valley Livestock or call (814) 360-3970.

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