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It’s Fair Season – a Family Guide to Fair Exhibits

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It’s that time of year again – Fair Season!  

I can just smell the delicious scents of midway foods and see and hear the lights and squeals on carnival rides?  But to most 4-H families, fairs go way beyond food and rides.  During fair season, youth throughout the state dress up with pride in their 4-H green attire and prepare for what’s to come…fair exhibits!

Fair exhibits can range from artwork to plants to animals and finally, the epic fair booths. The most important thing for youth and adult exhibitors is knowing:

1. What counties are allowed to participate?

2. What and how many categories you may enter?

3. Exhibit requirements.

Here, we’ll cover preparing for fair booths and animal exhibits but you can find multiple links below for the state and local fairs with more information on exhibit entries and requirements.

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Fair booths are the highlight of displays at the fair

Organizations, like 4-H, use fair booths to visually communicate what we offer.  Fair booths can be a great way to create a sense of Belonging in your club by having all members feel like they’re part of the 4-H Family!  You want your communication to be effective, so prepare a checklist:

  1. Research the fair you want to enter – determine the deadline and registration requirements.
  2. Will you earn a booth premium?  If so, figure out how much your club is willing to spend on supplies based on the premium could receive.
  3. Determine the size of your booth. Going out of booth boundaries can be a point deficit on the scorecard.
  4. Pick your booth theme and layout.
  5. Get commitments from members and parents to help with preparation, setup and breakdown.  Delegate tasks so everyone feels like they have contributed.

Check out Exhibits and Displays” below for a full checklist and more information!

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4-H’er talking to the judge of the Rabbit Show at Walton County Fair.

4-H Animal Exhibits

Rabbit, chicken, cattle, swine and goat exhibits are staples of fair week.  Animal exhibits give many people the opportunity to see, learn about and interact with animals they don’t normally come across.  For our 4-H youth, livestock exhibits and shows give youth the ability to gain Mastery through 4-H Project Learning. These highly experiential experiences teach youth a multitude of life skills.  To get your animals fair ready:

  1. Research the fair’s deadlines and registration. Be sure to check deadlines for acquiring ownership and birth-dates of your animals.
  2. Check the vaccination and health certificate requirements for your animal and secure an appointment with a veterinarian to have this completed.
  3. Be on time or early to check-in. Sometimes, there is only one Agriculture Inspector and a long line of exhibitors. Some animals are required to do on-site blood testing, so be prepared with your paperwork and be patient.
  4. Determine if the fair provides the food and bedding and if exhibitors are required to care for their animals daily. This is not only important for the nutritional well-being of your animal but also for their emotional well-being.

Helpful Links:

Florida Panhandle Fair Opportunities:

If you’re a fair veteran, 4-H alumni, or just someone interested in benefiting the youth of your community, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office to find out how you can become a 4-H Volunteer and share your expertise!

4-H in October

October is an exciting month for 4-H – we have some great things happening. First, it includes National 4 H Week, October 1-7. This year during National 4-H Week, The Northwest district is proud to celebrate the #TrueLeaders that make our community great. Every child deserves to be recognized for the great things they are doing. Help us celebrate #TrueLeaders during National 4-H Week by shouting out your favorite 4-H’er. #TrueLeaders lead by example, empowering their peers and inspiring communities. 4-H’ers, show your pride this National 4-H Week! Share photos of how youth are stepping up as #TrueLeaders in your county.

As part of National 4-H Week, 4-H’ers participate in 4 H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. This year’s 4 H NYSD event will take place on October 4.

Our local Tractor Supply Company will be supporting 4-H clubs October 4-15 with their Paper Clover Campaign, this is a national in-store fundraiser that benefits state and local 4-H programs. Tractor Supply invites friends and family to support 4-H by donating $1 at store checkouts for scholarships that send local kids to 4-H camp and other 4-H leadership experiences.

October also represent a time when our local tailgating youth will advance to the state finals. The northwest district will have 8 youth advancing to the state competition October 14.

October also means that it is fair time! You will be able to view our 2017 4-H youth exhibits across the Panhandle at local fairs and rodeos!

Central Panhandle Fair – October 2 -7
Art in the Garden Festival at the UF IFAS Research Center in Quincy- October 7th
Bonifay Rodeo – October 5-7
Walton County Fair – October 9-14
Panhandle Youth Expo– October 11th-14th
Pensacola Interstate Fair – October 19-24
North Florida Fair – November 2-12

Local 4-H youth will exhibit their artwork, plants and animals that they have been caring for this past year. Youth exhibits and plants are judged. Youth receive ribbon awards using the Danish judging system at county and regional fairs. This means that exhibits are judged against a “standard” rather than against other exhibits. For example, a painting that has been created by a 4-H’er is not compared to other paintings. Rather, it is judged according to the criteria of standards for paintings. A blue ribbon means that the exhibit meets high standards and good quality work is shown.

October and November are busy months in 4-H. To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

4-H Alumnae Reconnect through Love of Horses

Russell and Julie McMillian, Gulf County 4-H Alumnae and 4-H Leaders

Russell and Julie McMillian both grew up in Gulf County and together have established a thriving business based on their love of horses.  They now own a small farm in Dalkeith, just south of Wewahitchka, and their business Rockin’ M Ranch, consists of horseback riding lessons for beginners and beach rides for tourists and locals alike along the beautiful beaches of Cape San Blas.

How did this all begin?  Russell and Julie both grew up as Gulf County 4-H members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club.  They both participated in a variety of 4-H programs; including Horse Camp, Camp Timpoochee, Congress (now known as 4-H University), District Events, North Florida Fair Ag Judging, Area A and State 4-H Horse Shows, etc.  They both learned the values of 4-H through learning how to raise and compete with their animals, agricultural commodities, leadership skills, public speaking, community service, good decision making skills, and much more…

As adults, they both went in separate directions, but still maintained their love of horses and the farm life.  Russell began his career in flooring and tile work, while Julie received her education degree and taught Kindergarten at Wewahitchka Elementary School.  After reconnecting as adults, they married on September 25, 2010 and turned their passion for horses into a full-time love by creating their own business, Rockin’ M Ranch.  Russell still does flooring, tile work on the side, and helps his grandparents with their hay business.  Julie decided to leave the teaching field, and she manages their business full time.  She began giving beach rides on the Cape at the age of 14 and still loves it as much today.

Julie and Russell McMillian pictured with Brooke (left) and Hayleigh (right).

Russell began his time with 4-H at the age of 12 and Julie was 8 years old.  As members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club, they adored their 4-H leaders, Mr. Jesse Eubanks and Ms. Jean McMillian (Russell’s grandmother), and the Gulf County Extension Director, Roy L. Carter (now retired), whose passion for horses was contagious.  Julie explained that she was a very shy child and that participating in public speaking for District Events really helped her come out of her shell.  They both loved learning the values of the four H’s: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.  They feel 4-H has helped them develop into productive adults with good decision-making skills and in-stilled in them the importance of giving back to their community.  They have served as 4-H volunteers for the Big River Rider’s 4-H Club since Russell’s daughters joined 4-H years ago; Brooke (17) and Hayleigh (15) also ride horses and have competed in a variety of Gulf County 4-H programs throughout the years. Russell and Julie have also taught a variety of horse riding classes at multiple Gulf County 4-H day camps.

As 4-H and community leaders, their most important goal is to give back to the community that gave to them as 4-Hers growing up here. They really love introducing new riders to the love of horses and 4-H.  On any day, Russell and Julie can be found throughout the county at various events supporting 4-H members and any youth for that matter.

When asked what advice she has for someone thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer she said, “Do not have regrets…just do it. Do not be scared off by the fingerprinting and application process.  It is quick and easy, and maintains the safety for you and the children.  Get started! 4-H is a great opportunity for youth and adults.”

“As a 4-H extension agent, you can only hope to find 4-H volunteers as dedicated as Russell and Julie McMillian.  Their passion and love of 4-H is infectious and draws in youth looking for a place to belong.”  -Melanie Taylor, Gulf County 4-H Agent

For more information about Rockin’ M Ranch, please go to http://www.therockinmranch.com/.  For more information about how to become involved in 4-H, either as a youth member or adult volunteer, visit florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.  4-H offers a variety of roles for volunteers to share their passions, skills and interests.

 

Is a Rabbit Right for your Family?

Rabbits are a popular small animal project- but is it a good fit for your family?

With spring in the air, you may be interested in getting a real live bunny.  There are a few things to consider before bringing a bunny into your family:

  1. First consider what purpose you have for the rabbit.  Do you want a pet, a rabbit to show, a rabbit to breed, or one for meat?  Depending on how you answer the question will depend on what breed you choose.  There are many options.  The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes around 47 different breeds.
  2. Rabbits come in various sizes, shapes, fur types, and colors.  Rabbit range from 2 to 20 pounds.  There are several fur types to consider with normal fur being most common to unique fur that require special consideration.  Satin fur is known for its luster and sheen.  Angora fur is distinctive because of its length and its woolen consistency.  Rex fur is a dense fur type, noted for its velvet softness and thickness.
  3. There are five shapes of rabbits: commercial, compact, full arch, semi-arch, and cylindrical.  The most common is the commercial shape.  This type is found most often in meat rabbits.   The compact is similar to the commercial but has a shorter, more compact body.  A rabbit that has a full arch shape is taller than they are wide and have longer limbs.  Semi-arch breeds are not as common, are pear-shaped.  The cylindrical shape is only found in only one bread, are long and slender.
  4. Rabbits have an array of color.  Some breeds are only recognized in one color and other breeds are recognized in multiple colors.  It would be helpful for you to spend time reading about the different breeds as well as spending time with breeders or others who have rabbits.  Make sure you look for healthy and lively rabbits who have glossy coats, clear, bright eyes, and clean teeth and ears.
  5. Rabbits are fun to keep buy need lots of care and daily exercise.   They need a roomy cage to in live. Do not use a cage with a wire bottom as the wire hurts their paws.  Cages should be washed out once a week with warm, soapy water and rinsed with clean water.  Rabbits are like us, they don’t like living in dirty cages.  Remove wet bedding and droppings every day.  Keep unscented wood shavings in the bottom of the cage.  They should have fresh water and hay available at all time.  Food should be put in heavy bowls so that they cannot tip them over and fed two small meals a day.  Wash their water bottle and food bowls every day.
  6. Rabbits can be a lot of fun as they are friendly and love to be stroked.  You must be a good pet owner and learn to look after your rabbits properly, they may live for up to 10 -12 years.  Caring for a rabbit will help you learn how to be responsible for a living animal and how to treat animals properly.

Check with your local 4-H office to see if there is a rabbit club for you to join.  You may choose to join the club to become more knowledgeable about rabbits before you become an owner.  You then would be able to make informed decision about the perfect breed for you and your family.  If you have a passion for rabbits, consider becoming a 4-H rabbit project leader to inspire the next generation of rabbit owners and breeders.  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit florida4h.org for more information.

4-H Rabbit Project Page

Online 4-H Rabbit Project Book

North Florida Fair Rabbit Show

 

5 Steps to Poultry Showmanship

4-Hers are waiting for their moment with the poultry judge. Photo Credit: Misty Smith

4-Hers are waiting for their moment with the poultry judge. Photo Credit: Misty Smith

I am often asked, “How do you wash a chicken?” I reply, “Just like a turkey, only on a smaller scale!” But for many 4-H’ers, washing chickens is part of showing chickens and is a skill they have to master.

Raising and showing poultry is quickly becoming a hobby for people of all ages. Youth who are active in a 4-H poultry project, are already one step ahead of the rest. Not only do they learn about poultry health, bio-security, and nutrition, they also learn about sportsmanship and other aspects of the poultry industry through showmanship.  Many UF/IFAS Extension Offices offer day camps and clinics to help youth learn how to raise and show poultry, so contact your local office for more information- there’s one in every county!  Here are a few steps 4-H youth can take to prepare for a poultry show:

Step 1: Handle your chicken daily. By handling your chicken daily, this will ensure that it is used to people, and will be friendly to the judge. A friendly chicken shows the judge that the chicken’s owner has been dedicated to preparing the bird for showing, not just ignoring it and bringing it to the show on show day.

Step 2: Practice holding your chicken. There is a correct way to hold a chicken when you are showing it and you will need to practice, practice, practice. When you and your bird feel comfortable around each other, you can start practicing holding and walking around with the bird the correct way, by placing your middle and fourth finger between the bird’s legs. Using your first finger and pinkie, hold the bird’s wings down.  For carrying, put the bird’s head under your arm. When youth practice holding and carrying their bird, the bird becomes very docile and calm which makes for a great show chicken.

Step 3: Know the parts of the chicken. This step is one of the hardest in the entire showmanship procedure.

Poultry Showmanship can help youth build communication skills and confidence. Photo Credit: Julie Dillard

Poultry Showmanship can help youth build communication skills and confidence. Photo Credit: Julie Dillard

It is based on simply remembering the steps and practicing with your bird. Youth are quizzed on the parts of the chicken and whoever knows the most, does the best. Make sure you know about the head, wings, under color, width of body, breast, vent, abdomen, pubic bone, legs and feet, and how to cage a bird. All of these will ensure to the judge that youth have studied about their bird and are very knowledgeable on the parts of a chicken. Also, know about the breed of your chicken. You will want to do your homework on the breed of chicken that you are showing so any questions that the judge may ask about your bird you will know how to answer correctly.

Step 4: Know how to bathe your chicken. The easiest way to bathe a chicken is with a 5 gallon bucket of lukewarm water and dish soap. You want to “dip” the chicken 2-3 times in the soapy water, avoiding getting the head wet, and then dip them in clean water to rinse them off. Never submerge a chickens head in the water due to the fact that the chicken can aspirate and die. If your chicken’s head is soiled, use a wet cloth to wipe it clean. The chicken will take care of the rest by preening itself so make sure that you bathe the chicken 48 hours prior to the show so that there will be time for natural oil replacement. Place your chicken in a wire cage to ensure it stays clean before the show.

Step 5: Have fun! Showing chickens is a great and rewarding experience for youth. Poultry shows are a great opportunity for youth to demonstrate their skills, gain confidence, make lifelong friends and practice responsibility.  The 4-H poultry project can be the spark that leads youth to a career in animal science industry where the possibilities are endless!

Do you have a passion for poultry?  If so, consider using your knowledge, skills and interests as a 4-H poultry volunteer.  We could use your expertise planning shows, teaching workshops and helping youth experience success with their poultry project.  Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org for more info.

Recommended Resources for Poultry Showmanship:

The Impact Ag Judging Had on Me

Here in North Florida, as the dogwood trees start to turn colors and drop their leaves and I wait for the first cool breezes of a seemingly delayed Autumn I often find my memory is easily awoken by hints of past falls.

As a teen I participated for several years in the Agricultural Judging contest on the Wakulla County 4-H team. I fondly remember sticking my nose into a bail of bahia grass hay to check it for freshness. I can still recall my nerves as I stood silently beside my peers, clipboard in hand, intently looking over hogs and heifers rating them by confirmation and preparing the oral reasons to defend my decisions. The feel of oats in my hand as I compared and contrasted the merits of several samples.

The lessons I learned in Ag Judging stayed with me. It was one of my first introductions to the science of Agriculture. As a 4-H Horse project kid before my participation in the contest I had never stopped to consider many of the other aspects of agriculture that informed and supported my interest in horses and my horses themselves.

Understanding how to recognize and judge the grain and hay I fed my animals daily sparked an even greater understanding and interest in agriculture as a whole. Learning to judge other livestock piqued my interest in equine judging and led me to compete in that event at the state level and even win a state judging division one year. Once I was able to drive, my experience in judging agricultural commodities gave my parents the confidence to send me to buy the large amounts of hay and grain needed to keep the horses at our family’s boarding stables happy and fit. One less chore for them to have to worry about.

In college as an agricultural student I found that the 4-H judging programs I had participated in had prepared me perfectly for the practical lab tests in class. I discovered that they were set up in the same format as the 4-H programs I had been in just a few years before. 4-H helped me prepare for college by giving me practice in the exact kind of tests and exams as I would face in almost every practical agricultural lab I would end up taking.

Reading this some might think that the Agricultural Judging contest sounds great for a farm boy or girl looking to have a career in agriculture but it may not be for me or for my 4-H’er. They may change their minds after considering the life skills learned. The ability to think on your feet and the independence to rely on personal knowledge when making decisions are vital real world examples. These are the exact positive life skills that 4-H judging competitions teach and hone in young people.

Long-time Leon County 4-H Agent Marcus Boston says that he has, “seen the positive difference that 4-H has on young people. Agricultural judging teaches independent thinking. Youth have to make choices based off what they know and can’t ask for someone else to decide for them. That’s what you have to do every day as an adult.” Mr. Boston has been organizing the Ag Judging program at the North Florida fair since I was participating in the early 2000’s. That kind of dedication speaks to a real belief in the benefits and results of a program.

The youth who participate in the program can anticipate judging categories that will be chosen from the following:

  • Beef (Steers)
  • Poultry
  • Corn (shelled)
  • Oats
  • Heifers (Beef)
  • Perennial Peanut Hay
  • Soybeans
  • Grass Hays (e.g. Bahia, orchard grass)

Since different categories depend on availability and community support participants should be prepared for all of the categories.

If coaching or participating in an ag judging team appeals to you, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.  You can find out more about ag judging at these links: