Our Cup Runneth Over
Most people are quick to realize and appreciate the benefits of agriculture – most notably food, fiber and fuel. The running joke is that without agriculture we would all be hungry, naked and cold. This is true but having recently completed the ninth annual Botetourt County Fair, we would like to acknowledge another strong benefit of agriculture – that of community building.
This year’s fair was the most well attended since the fair’s inception in 2013. Yes – that is correct. Ten years ago this county did not have a fair or an option for our young 4-H’ers and FFA members to exhibit livestock. These children had to go to neighboring counties to participate in the meaningful activities, and to sell their livestock. It was at these events that a group of parents began to ask, “Why can’t we do this in Botetourt?”
This engaged group of parents, along with the extensive involvement and leadership of the Botetourt Extension Office, worked to turn this idea in to reality. And now, just under 10 years later, we have a fair that offers opportunity for everyone involved in the world of agriculture! Each of the fairs that have been held since that initial year have grown, and none would be possible without the support of our local community – our agriculture family, if you will.
And that brings us to the main point of this letter – to THANK our gracious agriculture family in Botetourt County. First, we would like to thank our corporate sponsors: Old Republic Title, Bank of Botetourt, Rockingham Co-op, James River Equipment, Botetourt Farm Bureau, First Bank, First Bank & Trust, First Citizens Bank, Member One, Roanoke ServPro, and Farm Credit. These businesses paid for the tents, prizes, ribbons, sound system, judges, security, bounce house, and the very popular mechanical bull.
One of the main events is the auction at the conclusion of the livestock and poultry show. This is a wonderful opportunity for the participating youth to sell their animals, wrapping up their projects for the year. The poultry auction raised $3,550; this money will be used for next year’s poultry chain to allow more youth to raise and show chickens and other 4-H projects in the county. The livestock auction raised $10,703; 100% of the money raised from the sale of the livestock projects is returned to the youth 4-H or FFA member that raised the animal. The money is used for current and future livestock projects and other entrepreneurial endeavors by that youth.
Two stories, in particular, should be highlighted regarding these sales. Ryan Borer, a lifetime 4-H’er, who was participating in his final youth sale, formed a buyers committee to buy his grand champion hog, which he donated to the Buchanan Food Pantry. Ryan exhibits all that is great about this program; he and his family are always there to lend a helping hand or word of advice to the younger members of the club. Ryan worked hard to raise money this year to be able to donate his champion pig back to the community that has supported him over the years.
A second buyers committee was formed to meet another need in the community. One of the 4-H exhibitors lost her show animals in a barn fire earlier this spring. In an effort to help this exhibitor, a committee was formed to raise money to buy her young pig and to give it back to her. This young female pig went home with the 4-H’er and will be bred to create future livestock projects as well as fuel her budding swine business. This committee raised $1,800 for this 4-H member! Part of the funds were raised by the local food walk, which resembled a cake walk of the days of old, but rather than winning cakes, walkers won local products produced by community agriculturists. The BoCo Walk alone raised $400!
Another event that was tremendously successful this year was the homemaking exhibit tent. A number of participants exhibited their homemaking skills in the form of artwork, quilting, needlepoint, photography, baked and canned goods, produce, eggs and much more. The judges awarded many blue ribbons and the Best of Botetourt was awarded in each category! Nothing brings back the nostalgia of the old-time county fair like a prize-willing apple pie or blue-ribbon jar of jam.
This fair shows us that agriculture is alive and well in Botetourt County and we are blessed with a community of producers, supporters and agriculturists of all levels. This agriculture community worked as a family to pull this together – they created opportunities, helped those in need and shared the wonderful work that is being done locally. So the next time you are asked about the benefits of agriculture, please add Family to Food, Fiber and Fuel!
Our cup truly does runneth over with agricultural community support and participation. Thank you to all who volunteered, donated, participated, and welcome to all who wish to participate next year!
While we are hesitant to even attempt to list the names of every community member that contributed to the amazing event we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the core group on the organizing committee. Krisha Golla, Sefanie Manbeck, Mallory White, Emily Bailey, Scott Stevens, Amy White, Sherrye Fleshman, Tyler Painter, and Kate Lawrence met regularly for nearly a year leading up to the fair to make sure everything was organized and ready to go. Any of one of those folks will be quick to tell you they each had an additional 10 to 25 people helping with the planning and execution of their portion. We are grateful.
Moving forward we see a great need to formally organize this group and establish non-profit status. If this is an area you are familiar with and wish to advise or assist in any way we would love your input. Please contact Kate at the Botetourt Virginia Cooperative Extension office, 540-473-8760 or MCL87@vt.edu.
Botetourt Cooperative Extension