Guest Column: Partnerships between 4-H, Clallam County Fair, PNW Junior Livestock Auction

Hooray, it’s finally the beautiful season! The Clallam County Fair will run August 18-21. Clallam’s last fair was in 2019 and we are ready to go back. It may be a little smaller than years past because it’s being rebuilt, but it happens! Consider the relationship between 4-H and county fairs:

About 4-H

First, a quick reminder, 4-H is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program delivered by the Cooperative Extension – a community of over 100 public universities nationwide.

Our Clallam 4-H program is headquartered at the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles, in a shared office with all other Clallam WSU extension programs. You can find local 4-H leaders Melanie Greer and Dan McCarty here when they’re not in the field or at the fairgrounds!

Founded 120 years ago, 4-H was created to support positive youth development while teaching the latest farming and farming skills to youth and families across the country. As 4-H has expanded beyond agriculture and the farm, traditional project areas continue to be fundamental.

The 4-H program year runs from October 1 through September 1. 30, largely because the Washington State Fair takes place in September. Youth in 4-H clubs with projects in animal science, home arts such as canning and sewing, and others, spend much of the year learning and preparing for their project area.

Youth programs often include an element of presentation of personal growth and youth learning; it can even include sports, often demonstrated through team games.

Many traditional 4-H projects are showcased at their local county fair. Whether it’s a baked pie or an auctioned beef, kids show the whole community what they’ve accomplished that year in 4-H. (Please note that 4-H youth are not competing against each other, but against the standard for this product. This means that 4-H projects are judged on their ability to show what a consumer expects from this product, not the most beautiful or the fastest.)

Then, if a 4-H’er is successful at his county fair, he has the opportunity to present that project at the Puyallup State Fair.

Junior Livestock Auction

Now to explain the important role that the Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction (PNWJLA) plays regarding our County Fair.

4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) youth who raise a meat animal can sell that animal into the food system at the Clallam County Fair during the Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction (PNWJLA), which takes is held at noon on Saturday, August 1. 20.

This is an important learning opportunity for young people considering a career in breeding. They learned how to raise the animal through 4-H, and the PNWJLA helps the youth bring this animal to market to sell.

Community members can purchase one of these animals, one that has been humanely raised, at the auction, held in the Swine Arena. Learn how to participate in an auction on the PNWJLA website (pnwjla.com/sale-info).

PNWJLA educates and ensures young people have safe and ready animals to enter the food system through quality assurance courses that meet industry standards. This quality assurance is the youth version of the equivalent qualification adults must pass to sell a food animal to a USDA facility.

In this process, young people learn how to raise and market their product to attract buyers. Most young people take the money and use it to buy their next pet and often save the rest to invest in college funds, ultimately it’s up to their discretion. It is essentially a masterclass in career readiness for our future food producers.

Just synergy

The 4-H organization and county fairs have a synergistic relationship because the purpose of the county fair is to show what makes this county unique and 4-H youth bring just that to the show. When 4-Hs show up at the Clallam County Fair, they help the fair achieve their goals set by the Washington State Fairs Association (WSFA), and the fair gives 4-H a public place to showcase 4-H ‘ers hard work. Both groups benefit from this close partnership.

We are very proud that the Clallam County Fair is one of Washington State’s Top Five County Fairs chosen by the WSFA in 2019. This designation was achieved through the work of the Department of Parks, Fairs and Clallam County facilities through the maintenance of a well-maintained and well-managed fairground, along with the commitment of the Clallam County Fair Board. Exceptional fairground management has helped increase learning and growth opportunities for Clallam 4-H’ers. The WSU Clallam Extension office is grateful for this fantastic working relationship, as are the young people who use the facilities. Check out this year’s calendar at clallam.net/Fair.

Although 4-H will have a smaller than normal exhibit at the fair this year, we invite the community to come out and cheer them on. They are so happy to be back and rebuilding for the future.

You can help us rebuild our previous workforce, we are looking for volunteers. Specifically, we need leaders to teach our home arts type projects such as sewing, crocheting, cooking, food storage, photography, art, and any other non-animal activity you may think, you don’t need to be an expert! Just open to learning and sharing with young people.

To volunteer, call Melanie Greer at 360-417-2398.

Lisa Bridge is a member of the Communications Department staff at WSU – Clallam County Extension Office.

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