As fair cancellations mount due to the coronavirus, people like Brain McAllister of Oley, Pennsylvania, are stepping in to salvage the hard work that youths have put into their livestock projects.
The Purina livestock nutritionist said he felt compelled to support the community that laid the foundation for his success back when he was a teenager raising market hogs for fair season.
McAllister designed a website, hoofandsnoutmeat.com, that uses a direct marketing newsletter to connect junior livestock exhibitors with consumers. In just two weeks, he had 50 subscribers from Pennsylvania and Maryland.
“This might make the projects pay for themselves,” McAllister said.
He plans to keep the newsletter active until the beginning of October.
Staff at Zook Molasses in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, would usually be preparing to attend local fairs and sales to support youth livestock projects. Given the uncertainly surrounding many summer and fall fairs, the company has decided to create an essay contest for youths in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. Twenty youths with 4-H or FFA projects can earn $250 to be used to offset livestock project expenses. In the essay, members can share their project story. All essays must be submitted before July 17 and can be addressed to Cody Holden at Zook Molasses Co.
For youths in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, carnival rides and tractor pulls will be noticeably absent from the fairgrounds next month, but not all will be lost. The fair board decided on May 18 that it would still showcase youth livestock projects, hoping that the county moves into the green phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 transition plan.
Lebanon’s livestock committee is working on a schedule in which market animals will be shown on designated days throughout the week. According to Daniel Siegel, Lebanon fair board president, only the junior exhibitors and their immediate family would be allowed on the fairgrounds during the shows. The fair has also decided to limit entries to members of Lebanon County 4-H and FFA.
“By June 2, we would normally have all the answers, but we are still planning,” Siegel said. “The biggest thing is — we want to be able to do something for the youth while staying within Gov. Wolf’s and the CDC’s guidelines.”
Indoor youth exhibits such as photography and sewing will also be included. Fair board members are looking at having a photographer create a digitized display of the indoor projects.
Stepping onto the virtual tanbark is The Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association. The co-op will hold a five-week county fair that is open to families and youth within the cooperative’s territory from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Except for a break around the Fourth of July, each week from June 19 to July 17 will have a theme, such as an animal costume contest. Entries can be submitted as either pictures with captions or a video. The weekly group winners can receive $100, $75 for families and $50 for individuals.
For the first time, Penns Valley Livestock in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, is holding a sale for youths with livestock projects in Clinton and Centre counties on Saturday, Aug. 15. Youths will be allowed to sell two animals of each species — rabbits, swine, lambs, goats and beef.
The sale is currently limited to 4-H and FFA members in the two counties, said sale coordinator Mandee Eckert. Depending on the number of participants after the registration on July 1, the sale could be opened to 4-H’ers and FFA members in surrounding counties.
Penns Valley will also manage all costs associated with the sale, like commission, except for checkoff or promotion fees. The sale has had an overwhelming response of volunteer support from the agricultural communities in both counties. Three auctioneers and several livestock haulers have offered to volunteer their services to the youth sale, Eckert said.
With the planning of the sale, Eckert has been communicating with various 4-H families in surrounding counties, asking Eckert for advice on how to coordinate a show or sale for their county livestock youth. She says the biggest trouble is finding the ideal location to host the event.
“If someone can put something together, the people are there,” Eckert said.
The Clinton and Centre sale will also have options for buyers, who purchase livestock for processing. The sale has made connections with local processors within the 20-mile radius of the sale barn for immediate slaughter.
“We are hoping to get buyers out there to support these kids,” she said. “It’s all for the kids.”