I know you have probably heard enough about our county fair experience, but I have to squeeze this last post in. About the Junior Livestock Auction.
The reason why I want to share about this event is because it is filled to the brim with life learning experiences. Hard things. Things that are out of my kids' comfort zones. Things that are important for them to learn.
We start off, about 4-6 weeks before the fair, by writing our auction buyer letters. The kids write these and tell a little about themselves, what they have learned in 4H this year, and what animal they are raising. We also includes photos and an auction brochure, which describes the process of buying an animal.
The next step is sending these buyer letters out. The kids research what business owners might be interested in buying and pay special attention to those who have bought from our fair in the past. We also remember our own previous buyers and write them a special note, thanking them for buying our animals in years' past, and explain how they have used the money to further their other 4H projects. Some companies require that they have to send the letters to the corporate offices, but others we hand deliver.
This is the not-so-fun part.
Two of my kids are pretty shy and find it super intimidating to go into a business and ask for the owner or manager. They then tell them who they are, what they are raising, and invite them to the auction. Many of the business owners have no clue what we are talking about and ask questions:
"What is 4H?" "How much do they auction for?" "Can I take it home as a pet?"
For the most part I try to let my kids handle the questions and even have the older ones step in with the answers, but sometimes I have to help with the reply.
What businesses do we go to? For some reason the tire stores in our area support 4H so we hit all of those, plus the local feed stores, supermarkets, real estate offices, and anyone else we can think of.
When that part is done there is a collective sigh of relief.
Next step is the actual auction at the end of the county fair.
This is a real auction with cowboy hats and everything.
You can see the auctioneer in the photo below and he was doing the whole verbal spiel, talking 50 miles per hour, the WHOLE TIME.
Our fair is so big that we have two auction rings....the other one pretty much does swine all day, which also explains why our barn smells the way it does, for five whole days.
This year Dasher was selling a rabbit. The thing to remember in the ring is to smile and make eye contact with all the buyers.
Here is Mr. Lego, watching the bidding.
It takes a bit to get used to the lingo, and to try to figure out who is actually bidding, but once you get it, it is super fun to watch. And take my word for it, wait until you are out of the auction area to scratch your head. (It didn't happen to me, but someone sitting near us kept confusing the auctioneer.)
Dasher did a great job, and a building company bought her rabbit for the second year in a row. (The rep from the company was hanging around the fair and was asking for Dasher specifically at one point, because she had sent him a buyer letter. See Dasher? Those letters do pay off.)
Next year my kids want to be more vigilant in looking for buyers during the fair; many of them will come see your animal in its pen and ask you questions about how you raised it, then bid on you in the auction. And the more bidders you have, the higher your price goes up.
After her turn in the ring and all smiles.
This is also time for photos with the goats....after they come out of the ring they are marked with paint, depending on if they are going for resale or custom. (That is up to the buyer and it is pretty simple: custom means the buyer wants the meat in their own freezer, and re-sale means they want to sell it back to a meat company, and get a nice tax write-off.)
Your presentation has a lot to do with it, so we wash the goats, trim everything up, and get whites on.
Waiting in line.
They were towards the end of the day and were # 730 and #732.
To keep us all from suffocating in the barn they open all the massive doors, which, if you are sitting in just the right spot, blind you from seeing anything.
And that is where I ended up, getting horrible photos.
Here is Bookworm.
A meat company bought her goat.
...and here is Mr. Lego.
A family at our fair bought his goat.
More and more people are actually buying their meat this way...you know that the meat you are purchasing was treated humanely (probably treated like one of the family) and wasn't given anything weird for feed.
The last step in the whole process is to thank your buyer. Sometimes they are hard to find because they go from ring to ring and you have to listen carefully and watch to see who finally buys your animal. But once we find them, each child goes down and give them a small gift and thanks them personally for buying their animal.
This is the second year that the above meat company bought from Bookworm, and so he talked with her for a few minutes and said he would be back to see her again next year.
And so far, each year that we have gone the kids have made enough to do the whole thing all over again the next year.
So many lessons to learn from this...that hard work pays off, how to build relationships, how to write good letters, and speak to strangers. We also learn the cycle of life, from feeding and conditioning an animal, to the processing plant.
Another reason why I love 4H.