Lessons Learned at the 4-H Farm Fair

Victoria loves her animals!

Practice like you've never won

Perform like you've never lost

It’s hard to believe that another farm fair has come and gone. If you are a 4-H’er (or the parent of one) you are probably completely exhausted. Oh course, if you ask our Victoria, she would tell of the fun, the new friendships, and of all her ribbons that now hang in her room.

For many of my readers, the farm fair is a night of cotton candy, rides on the Ferris Wheel, and seeing all the cute farm animals. But it’s so much more…

Way before the show ring and the ribbons the dream is sparked….plans to grow the best tomato plant, make the coolest woodworking project, or raise the winning champion pig. Yes, these 4H kids dream, plan, keep detailed records, and learn so much.

So, while we 4-H parents are silently sighing in relief that the fair is over, we wouldn’t exchange the life lessons that our children have learned from the County Farm Fair.

1. 4-H Gives Your Child Confidence

There is nothing better than facing your fears like standing before a judge. With each project submitted to the fair, the 4-H’er must give details of how the project was made, the amount of time, and answer any question that the judge may throw their way.

For example, our kids love to enter the cake baking contest. They must present their cake, while mom stands “behind the yellow line” and answer to three judges (who happen to own bakeries!) on the ingredients used, what would they have changed, and why do you think your recipe called for such an ingredient.

Then the cake is taste tested. All while your heart is beating rapidly. Yes, it requires confidence!

Victoria and Elizabeth explaining their cakes to the judges. We are proud to say that Elizabeth was the 2017 Grand Champion Cake Baker!

2. 4-H Teaches Your Child Time Management

For each project submitted one must complete detailed records and keep deadlines-all while giving presentations, tending to sick animals, and battling the weather.

Victoria loves to collect bugs! She has won many awards for her collection. She is required to label and give detail to the science teacher judges...who are always impressed!

3. Your Child Learns to Follow Through to Completion

Oh, the struggle. While friends are warm in their beds these kids are up feeding animals, cleaning stalls, and keeping financial records of money spent. They learn that there is always a fun beginning, a long middle, and a rewarding end…if one works hard enough.

Animals needs lots of care...even during the hot summer heat...when your friends are on the carnival rides you are busy with your projects.

4. 4-H Teaches Your Children Responsibility

There is no better way to teach responsibility than learning to care for one’s own animal project (especially if you had to use your own money to buy the project). For example, Victoria used her auction money from her previous farm fair year to purchase her Boer show goats. She was required to research the care of the goat, types and cost of feed, and what would be required for her to show in the fair. This was no easy task. She then was totally responsible to rise early in the morning to feed her animals…even in the snow, rain, and extreme heat…even when she was tired, hungry, and would rather be in the pool. This was her project to own!

The kids are completely responsible for their own projects.

5. Never Blame Others

Victoria learned a very hard lesson this year. As a first- time competitor in the goat showmanship she realized that she had not practiced nearly enough. With the stands full of family and friends she definitely did not show at her best. Afterwards, she had no one to blame but herself. She chose not to practice as much as she should have…especially to place in the finals. I can guarantee that it will not happen again!

This was Victoria's first year competing with her show goat.

6. 4-H Raises Your Child's Self-Esteem

There is something about learning a new skill, or showing an animal, that builds self esteem. I have enjoyed our years in 4-H while watching my children give demonstrations, teach others a skill, and step inside a show ring…where only the winners are awarded. I’ve loved their smiles when they have stepped up to the winners podium after an archery competition or received an award for any of their many projects.

Tribe archery team!

7. Your Child Learns how to Work Alongside all Ages at the 4-H Farm Fair

From working in the barn together or competing in the show ring, these kids learn to work with all ages. You could be giving some helpful hints to the novice showman or showing your pig against a senior showman. You are required to attend meetings, answer to judges, and work in the community. It’s a great way to learn communication skills!

The older 4-H student helps the younger ones...this is Abby who is always willing to assist Victoria.

8. The 4-H Farm Fair Helps Your Child Learn New Skills

I love how the judges give suggestions for improvement. For example, the goat judge explained in detail to Victoria what would be needed to place higher for awards. So the next time she went inside that show ring, Victoria used those suggestions and placed in the winners circle. The same is true for any project submitted. The judges really take the time to encourage the kids and make the best even better.

Vlad speaking with judges about his cake.

9. Your Child Gains a Strong Work Ethic in 4-H

Until you have hauled a few 250 pound hogs to the fair you have not experienced hard work! There is nothing like the day the pigs are to arrive to the fair- grounds, get weighed in and settled into their pens. Sounds so simple. But image loading a fat pig, after you have bathed it, and driving to the fair grounds at the wee hours of the morning. Then park in a long line while you patiently wait your turn, in the morning humidity and heat, to pen up your hogs.

Then the fun begins as each hog must be taken to the end of the barn to get on a very large scale…all while the kids pray that they “make weight.” Then the pens are cleaned, pigs are watered and fed, and onto feeding any other animal that you may be showing at the fair.

Dad is always willing to help with the animals.

10. 4-H Teaches Your Child that Money doesn’t grow on trees!

Animals are expensive. That cute little pink pig likes to eat…a lot. And your goat needs de-wormed, your horse needs salve on it’s leg, your bunny needs it’s teeth trimmed, and you need to have all animals cleared by the vet prior to fair time. Let’s not forget buckets, brushes, shavings, shine cream (yep, for show time!), and so much more. And that cute outfit and green hair bow for the show ring isn’t cheap either. One must keep detailed records of all money spent on projects and plan for future projects. We think it’s a great way to learn about finances!

Our kids work on their projects throughout the school year. We include all of this in our homeschool portfolio review.

The 4-H adventure is filled with excitement, struggles, deadlines, and even family time. There is nothing like a new baby pig arriving on the farm or watching our chicks hatch. It’s sad to bury your show goat after spending a very rainy night trying to nurse it back to health. It’s stressful gathering vet reports and meeting important deadlines. It’s disappointing when you have worked so hard, yet your show pig did not make weight. It’s exhausting rising early with the sun to feed your animals, haul them to the fair, and make sure they are taken care of. It’s expensive buying new material for your sewing projects, stain for your woodworking projects, and starting all over on your cake when the first one did not turn out so good. But doesn’t that sound like real life? Life is not always easy.

One must learn to plan, prepare, and follow through with commitments. One must learn to serve others, communicate effectively, and be confident in the decisions that you make. So while other moms think I’m crazy for spending my vacation time in a hot smelly barn with a group of loud (and smelly) 4-H kids, I think it’s a great time for my children to learn valuable life lessons.

More Photos from the 4-H Farm Fair

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About Me

Welcome to our home, my name is Michele. My husband, Walter, and I have been happily married (most of the time) for 28 years. My husband is the Pastor of Strong Tower Church while I work as a Critical Care Nurse. Together, we have been blessed with 10 beautiful children.

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