It is county fair season here in Kansas. If you have never been to a small county fair, you need to go. Its a part of our small town, rural America that will remind you of why our country is so great. A county fair is a place where you can let your kids be kids, have a vision of what Norman Rockwell saw. A place where we celebrate everything that is at the heart of our great nation.
Each summer I have the honor and privilege of judging beef, sheep and swine shows at a number of fairs. For those of you who may not be familiar with 4-H and FFA, let me set the stage. Youth who participate in these projects have spent many months of hard working preparing their livestock for the fair.
In the case of the beef project, the young person probably started sometime in December with a small calf. They worked with this calf teaching it to lead with a halter, feeding, watering and caring for every need the animal may have. They do this everyday, winter, spring and summer. Mornings before they go to school, evenings after ball games, and everyday no matter the weather.
The kids involved in the sheep and swine projects may start them a little later in the year (usually around spring) but they require no less care on a daily basis. My point is that the animal projects (and all the youth projects) require a vast amount of time in preparation before the fair. The project you see at the fair is a culmination of a year and lots of time and effort for their owners.
Stop at a county fair and watch the show, better yet get there early and watch the youth prepare for the show. You will see that the owners have a great amount of pride in the animals they have raised. You will also see a lot of camaraderie among competitors. Even though they are competing each will take time to help the other (we could all learn a lot from them) and by doing so will forge friendships that will last for many years to come.
In a day and age when the work ethic and drive of our youth is questioned, it is refreshing to see what 4-H and FFA does for the youth involved. The participants are learning real-world skills, making networking connections they will keep all their lives and learning to be responsible. Unlike sports you will see youth taking part in activities that they will some day go "pro" in. You will be seeing the next generation of farmers and ranchers who will be feeding you.
So plan that trip to your local county fair, walk through the barns, listen and watch what is going on around. I will promise that you will come away feeling better about the next generation. We would all be a lot better off if we spent a few days at the fair, I know I will be.