Sept. 9, 1901, was the opening day of the first Missouri State Fair. Since my first state fair in 1989, my perspective changed from attendee and farmer to state fair commissioner to director of agriculture. Once responsible for cheering on the young people at my county fair, I’m now responsible for ensuring each fairgoer has a welcoming experience.
Generations of family members have been attending and exhibiting at the fair since it began. My own two children, Conner and Rachelle, are the third generation of fair exhibitors in our family. Each year, we take their 4-H and FFA projects to Sedalia to be shown, as do many families wishing to continue their own fair traditions. I am always amazed with each 4-H and FFA, not only are they responsible for their projects, but they also take on responsibilities for the younger members.
Last fall, Conner was so excited to pick out his show heifer for the summer. He worked with her for several weeks, breaking her to walk, feeding her the correct rations and brushing her to perfection. In the end, she started walking with a limp that couldn’t be fixed by a veterinarian. Conner learned some valuable lessons through that project, but I was so proud of his next steps. Instead of focusing on his own story, Conner made sure to be at the Macon County Fair to help the young people in our community continue to learn how to exhibit their animals.
Real work ethic
Missouri 4-H and FFA provide a home for everyone, no matter what their background is. Workforce development has received a lot of focus in our state this year, but these organizations have been centered on that since the beginning of their existence.
At the state fair, their members showcase everything from woodworking projects to decorated cakes and prize-winning vegetables to captivating photographs. While showing an animal, giving a demonstration or volunteering may seem like everyday tasks to these members, it is preparing them for their future.
Throughout their time as an exhibitor and member of their organization, they will gain lifelong skills that are guaranteed to set them apart from others in the workplace. The young person showing fellow exhibitors the ropes may be preparing for a future in teaching. The shy student who is gathering confidence to present a project to fairgoers may be the next CEO of a major agribusiness. The student who takes extra interest in his or her animal’s health and nutrition could be your next doctor or veterinarian.
The State Fair also brings together Missourians for a common goal: to help others.
Missouri Department of Agriculture
LEARNING BY DOING: Missouri’s FFA member joined in to help pack meals for underserved kids during the 2018 state fair. The Drive to Feed Kids is back on this year.
As a mother and farmer, helping to feed children is a personal goal for me, especially when 1 in 5 Missouri children don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The Drive to Feed Kids food packing event will be taking place again this year. Over 700 FFA members will be packing meals during the fair to help fight childhood hunger in our state. This event is helping them understand the importance of volunteering and community service.
While the fair means something different to each person, traditionally, it is still a strong agriculture showcase and educational resource in our state. I hope that during the Missouri State Fair this year, you take the opportunity to interact with some of Missouri’s youth exhibitors. Stop to watch them continue the Missouri State Fair traditions, which in turn are helping shape them into the leaders and future agriculturalists who will eventually feed, fuel and clothe our world.
Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence.