As exhibitors lined up to show their best goats at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Judge Jennifer Lohman-Peterson decided to split the class into two heats after looking at the overwhelming amount of farmers waiting to enter the ring.
The farmers eager to get in the ring were all under 19 years old. With some exhibitors young enough for Peewee Showmanship, no barrier seemed to face them. For many small children, the dairy goat breed of choice was the Nigerian Dwarf. Standing a maximum of 57cm tall, many young children grabbed their companions and were able to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the Royal.
Exhibitor Ed Franken has been taking his family to the Royal for years, and his children grew up showing dairy goats and still did this year. With small grandkids excited to be near the livestock, a hope for future farmers burns bright. “It’s nice for sure. You get to work together as a family and maybe get to pass it on someday,” says Franken about his children and small grandchildren helping at the Royal.
Kim DeKlein, leader of the Middlesex 4-H says that win or lose, her 4-H members are there to learn lessons. “I just hope they try their best. That’s all I want. Showing livestock really boosts their confidence and showmanship skills. I just want them to leave the ring feeling like they did their best.”
With endless opportunities for farm education at the Royal, whether you are learning the basics as an urban person or refining your skills as a livestock exhibitor, the Royal has hands-on learning opportunities for everyone.
Kim DeKlein says you don’t have to live on a farm or have any experience with livestock to become a 4-H member with a chance to show at the Royal. “Many of our members at the Middlesex 4-H Club do not live on farms. If someone does not have an animal to show, we can find one for them, that’s no problem. 4-H is open for all kids.”
For decades the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair has aimed to bridge the gap between urban and rural cultures by encouraging interactions with animals and farmers. Franken believes that it’s making a difference. “You get a lot of questions when you exhibit at the Royal, but I think it’s good. Everyone is learning and kids have the chance to get involved on all levels.”
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is on until November 11 and you can meet up with members of the Middlesex 4-H Club to ask young farmers in your area questions about local agriculture.