It’s time for fair time (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is a Professor Emeritus with Delaware State University.)
The older I get, the faster these years seem to fly by.
Once again, we are coming into the fair season and that opens up opportunities to bring the rural and the urban communities together, and offers a chance to showcase the things that we are doing in agriculture.
Local and state fairs are great places to visit and get a chance to see various types of livestock, farm products, machinery and people.
When I started my career in Cooperative Extension it was the one time of year that you could walk around a very specific area with the confidence that you would run into many of the local farm community members from across the county and state.
It definitely opened up chances to discuss the topics of the day with regards to crop and livestock production in a very relaxed setting.
Lots of fair goers, enjoy looking at the exhibits on display, be they animals or plants, however, very few of them realize all the hard work and time that is invested in making those exhibits what they are.
One specific area that attracts most folks are the animal exhibits, and while most fairs have open class as well as junior exhibits in the livestock arena, the junior area often outshines the open classes.
Livestock exhibits begin way in advance of the fair, and raising a livestock project animal involves countless hours of daily care, feeding, training and grooming before the animal is ready to be put on display.
When it comes to swine shows, I know that a lot of folks watch from the stand and view the exhibition as a form of chaos.
They do not realize that hours of training are necessary to get those animals trained to move in a specific direction, stop and pose and move out so the judge can adequately evaluate the animal and compare it to others in the class.
Time invested usually shows as the individuals who have invested the necessary time often find themselves at the top of the class.
Animals like sheep and goats need to be trained to stand steady in a way that shows their confirmation off in the best possible way, with their feet properly planted firmly on the ground.
Prior to showing, they also need to be washed and trimmed to present an even topline and with sheep, trimmed to make the appearance of a perfect confirmation even if their body, under the wool is not perfect. It takes skill and a lot of time to make this happen.
Cattle are a much more difficult undertaking and it has always amazed me when I see a youngster, handling a 1,300-pound steer in the show ring, making that steer move, set-up and show itself to its best advantage.
In my humble opinion, showing cattle is more difficult because the animals need to be halter broke to the point that they will lead where ever their handler wants them to go in a quiet, deliberate manner.
Consider the fact that the animal weighs 15 or more times the weight of the person who is handling it at the halter. It is impressive to say the least.
Right here on Delmarva, we are blessed with many small, local county fairs as well as one state fair (the Delaware State Fair) within easy driving distance.
Every single one of these events is worth the time to investigate and explore. If you are willing to travel a little further, there are quite a few larger county fairs across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the west, or across the line into Pennsylvania or New Jersey as well as the Maryland State Fair in Timonium, Md.
This year the Maryland State Fair is going to use a new format, spanning over three weekends instead of a continuous run through the week.
I hope you will take the time to support these local events and see what they have in store for you.
They are well worth the effort.