Have you ever been to an Agricultural Fair? This is one of my favorite parts of the late Summer season. Barns filled with animals and the smell of cotton candy in the air. Tractor pulls and even Pedal Tractor pulls for the little ones. Pig races and gorgeous quilts made by local craftspeople. There is truly nothing else like it in the world, a real slice of American Pie.
As a young Mom, I really wanted to dive into the Master Gardener program run by the Agricultural Outreach Program in coordination with Rutgers University. I stopped by their office, I sent email, I filled out applications to no avail. I just couldn’t quite get my foot in the right door to reach my Master Gardener goals. I even stopped by their booth at the Fair, but it never seemed to come together for me.
I am not one to give up, but I admit, this one goal had alluded me. Until the Summer I decided I would use my daughter to get my foot in that door. Now before you judge me, let’s remember, I was trying to donate my time to gardening. Instead we ended up spending 6 years in one of the best 4H clubs in our county, the Hunterdon Hoppers, the local rabbit club.
From the moment we started, my daughter and I were in for a learning experience. Club meetings followed the Roberts Rules of Order. A gavel would bang and attendance was taken. We stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the 4H pledge. Minutes would be read and corrected with a chorus of I’s to approve the changes. New opportunities for the club would be discussed and voted on. At the end of meetings, there was time for members to give presentations about their animals or other related subjects. I learned something new every week.
So my daughter and I raised rabbits for the next 6 years. They were a lot of fun and we loved every rabbit we were blessed with. Once we were even successful breeding a pair of mini lop rabbits! The kits were absolutely adorable. My daughter learned so many things about life and even the sadness of the loss of a dear rabbit friend. Presentations are a large part of 4H, learning to talk in front of folks and even teach people about their projects. 4H members must present each year to be a club member in good standing. This leads to the best time of year, the Fair.
4H members join together to clean up the Fairgrounds every year. Picking up trash and replacing garbage cans are just a couple of tasks the kids take on to bring the Fair to life. Animals come to the Fair a day or two before it opens to the General Public. Members will perform health checks and assure all the animals are healthy before they are assigned a spot in the barns or tents. Then every evening those barns and tents are watched by the kids and a parent. That’s right, they sleep with the chickens, the goats, the cows and sheep to assure everyone is safe and sound.
I say to you now, those were the best years. Going to Community events and sharing our rabbits with folks. Watching the kids grow into young adults that could drive and then go off to college was a blessing to me. My own daughter will graduate this Spring as an Art Teacher, I couldn’t be more proud.
The next time you get the chance to stroll through your local Agricultural Fair, look for those kids, they’re working hard so we can enjoy all of the projects they have toiled on over the past year. Maybe ask about getting your little one involved in the club that interests them the most. I promise you, they’ll be the best years you spend with your little ones.