Wayne County kicked off the 4-H fair season in mid-June. I've had the pleasure of judging projects here before, like wildlife, soil and water conservation and the like, but not this year. Judging was the week of the Indiana FFA State Convention, and I was needed elsewhere, since my son, Daniel, was completing his year as a state FFA officer.
I have made it to Dearborn County, Union County, and a few others, usually judging in the evening or on Saturdays. Why do I judge? Because it's fun to talk to young people who still have an interest in natural resources and agriculture. Nearly every county uses open judging. If at all possible, the 4-H'er is encouraged to attend and talk to the judge. Some have talked themselves up a ribbon because they are so knowledgeable. Some, well, it's obvious mom or dad probably helped a little more than they should have. So it goes.
I was impressed by the courtesy of a young lady in Liberty the other night. It was 'Yes, Mr. Judge', and 'That's a very good point, Mr Judge.' Turns out she's home-schooled - mom and dad must be teaching her very good manners in her home setting. She also had a couple of dandy projects.
In Dearborn County I helped judge shooting sports. I'm not a big hunter, but I've been exposed to guns and bows through friends. Nearly 100 kids participate in that county in the program, which requires them to complete a shoot and then either do a poster, or build an item related to hunting. This one young man's gun rack was very well done. There was just one problem. It was still a bit tacky from the last coat of shellac, or whatever he used. I'm not a forensic scientist, but I'm guessing it went on sometime after midnight the night before. Hey, that's OK. I remember finishing an electric cord after midnight the night before. Mom yelled, I didn't get it, so I asked a neighbor to 'help.' Consequently, I still don't truly know how electricity works through a cord today. If I plug it in and nothing happens, I'm in trouble.
My biggest challenge comes in Franklin County. They're serious about their crops. Between soybeans, wheat, corn, hay and tobacco, yes I judged tobacco, for the third time in three years, I judged some 80 projects. And for a while I through I was in a livestock show. When it came time for champions, the assistants, a couple of savvy farmers, pulled out the winners and I picked my winner while sometimes a couple dozen people watched. It's exciting, but it's also a bit unnerving.
When my kids show pigs, sheep and a steer this week at our county fair, I'll try to be a little more understanding of the judge,. My wife, Carla, says I'm too harsh on them anyway if we don't do well (like she's nto?). Just be consistent, that's all I ask of a judge.
That's probably what parents of those crop kids in Franklin County were saying last week: "If that judge would just be consistent, we would be happy."
Get out to a county fair and enjoy it. 4-H is far from perfect, but between 4-H and FFA- they're the best leadership-building hopes we have for he next generation of ag leaders. They deserve your support.