HARRISONBURG — Fried chicken, mac n’ cheese and iced tea made up only a small fraction of the different dishes Rockingham County 4-H and FFA members and families piled high on the tables at the annual county fair buyers appreciation dinner on the fairground Wednesday evening.
“This is one last thank you to all buyers,” said Sam Leech, 4-H extension agent for Rockingham County.
About 860 participants, their family members and buyers sat at fold-out tables in the exhibit hall, laughing and talking before some final awards were presented.
In total, about $368,000 in checks was given to the young producers for their hard work raising steers, lambs, goats and hogs after the live auction in August.
It was at that auction where Jackson Lohr, 16, of Broadway, found out just how much his hard work had paid off.
Lohr started off with four hogs, but one died, one came in underweight in June and the third wasn’t show material, he said.
Lohr’s final hog was purchased by Holtzman Oil Corp. for $1,050 at $3.75 a pound.
“Money isn’t the most important thing to me,” Lohr said. “The most important thing to me is getting out there and showing my hogs.”
Lohr’s friend, Jared Hoover, 16, showed two hogs and a steer and received a check for about $4,000.
Both said after all the work and feed, the checks aren’t too much of a windfall.
Lohr plans to use the money to expand his operation and invest in college. Hoover said he was also planning to store the money for higher education.
Though the total sum earned by participants is about 10% less than last year, it is still a large amount of money, said Dave Walker, financial committee member for the Rockingham County 4-H and FFA.
About 230 youth produced more than 570 animals to show at the County Fair. Compared to last year, there were more participants, Walker said.
There were also more contestants who entered steers, lambs and goats — but less hogs.
The reduction in hogs could have been due to the heat, which makes it harder for pigs to gain weight, Leech and Walker agreed.
Leech credited the increases in participation and other livestock numbers to the strength of the local 4-H and FFA clubs.
The money for the livestock purchase first goes to the county fair, but then the fair writes checks in full for participants.
“This is payday for them,” Leech said. “A lot of these kids have $3,000 to $5,000 waiting on them.”
Supporting youth in the community is a major goal, said Cammie Tutwiler, public relations representative of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, which bought a lamb at the auction.
The co-op buys livestock from all four auctions in their service area, she said.
SVEC hopes to continue to support young producers by buying livestock into the future, according to Tutwiler.
“These kids work so hard — the sale is the culmination of that,” she said. “It’s just really fantastic to be able to support that.”