Dedication pays off at county fair

Photo by Cesar Salazar


Emma Olson (right) has one of her ewes judged and inspected by judges at the Winona County fair during the 4-H Sheep Show.



The Winona County Fair returned last week and featured many activities and events for participants, such as the carnival rides, petting zoo, tractor pull and parade, talent show, contests, and the 4-H livestock judging. The 4-H event at the county fair is used as a basis for contestants to enter and participate in the Minnesota State Fair.

4-H contestants put months and sometimes years of hard work into honing their livestock entries, which could be sheep, cows, poultry, or even dogs. The animals are judged on looks, uses, and talents.

Emma Olson entered sheep that she and her aunt raised. Olson typically visits her aunt in the summer and begins to work on raising a 4-H contest sheep.

“I started with my two older cousins who did 4-H,” Olson said. “I just started doing it with them because I spent a lot of time at the barn when I was younger, so it was just natural to start.”

Olson lives in the Twin Cities but visits her aunt in the county who owns a sheep farm. The 4-H contest is a way for her to also see what other people raise for their livestock entries. Living away from the country also makes it challenging for her to be able to dedicate time to raising her sheep. “That’s definitely one of the biggest challenges for me is finding time to come down and work with them,” she said.

Another contestant was Addrianna Ellsworth, who entered some ducks into the 4-H contest. She has been raising the ducks since May. “These birds I have right here I raised from an egg, so I have their parents at my place, so we bred and we fledged them out,” Ellsworth said.

Ellsworth said that the most challenging aspect is trying to keep them alive, and it takes a lot of time and effort to raise them. “Raising all birds, trying to keep them alive from day one to the next month — if they get a little bit of a breeze, they could die," she said. "If they get any sort of disease … that’ll kill them instantly.”

Ellsworth has been learning about raising livestock from her family since she was little and is something her family has always partaken in and participated in together.

Lane Jabs has been following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps in raising livestock. He said that it’s been a family tradition for over 100 years. His grandfather, Frank Kaehler, was even inducted into the Winona County Fair’s Hall of Fame that day for exhibiting for over 50 years, according to Jabs.

“I suppose since I’ve been old enough to walk, I’ve been around it,” Jabs said. He continued, “Cows and pigs, we’ve been raising them and have years and years of genetics to back it up.”

Jabs said one of the most challenging aspects of raising his livestock at his family’s business is making decisions on breeding the livestock and figuring out what traits would come out.

Ultimately, 4-H serves as a way for people of all ages to learn about livestock raising. The 4-H contest is always open to people from all over the place, whether they are people who live in big cities or live on the family farm. 4-H provides the opportunity to show hard work and skill.