Feud at the fair: Beaver County 4-H club leaves fold and takes livestock with it

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SALEM, Ohio —  If your plans include going to the Hookstown Fair to view livestock raised by youth, you might be disappointed this year. The Beaver County Stockman’s Club members have renounced their 4-H affiliation and will not be displaying their livestock at the fair this year.

In 2014, there were 40 4-H’ers in the Beaver County Stockman’s Club, the primary club showing at Hookstown, and the market livestock sale totaled $148,259.

What happened

Mike Allison, Beaver County Stockman’s Club treasurer, didn’t want to get into specifics, but said Penn State Extension made changes to rules governing showing livestock at fairs, and club advisers felt the changes did not benefit youth. The rule changes were introduced in October 2014.

Penn State Extension officials, however, say the goal was not to make new rules in Beaver County, but to bring the rules in western Pennsylvania 4-H programs to the same standard as those across the state.

Beaver County 4-H educator Cynthia Searight did not return Farm and Dairy’s phone calls and instead referred calls to the state office. Chuck Gill, Penn State public relations specialist in State College, said the changes implemented were designed to standardize rules across all 11 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania. He said one of the rule changes limits the number of livestock projects a youth can take in a single year to four animals, something both Beaver County clubs objected to. Penn State did waive the rules for this year and said each youth could take additional animals.

Allison said the changes were introduced after the youth had already purchased their market steer projects, which added to their club’s frustration. Gill said the rules were drafted by a subcommittee of a regional youth development advisory committee and then approved by the youth development advisory committee before they were rolled out to the public.

Soon after the rules were announced, the clubs each received a memorandum of understanding to sign. In Pennsylvania, each 4-H club has to be chartered and each club has to have a signed memorandum of understanding. Gill said the livestock clubs at both Big Knob and Hookstown refused to sign the memorandum last fall and, at that point, the clubs ceased to be affiliated with 4-H.

“We respect their decision,” said Gill.

Now, as independent youth organizations, the Stockman’s Club and the Big Knob livestock club are both are seeking 501(c)(3) nonprofit incorporated status.

Chafing at commission

The amount of commission charged to the youth when they sell their animal at the livestock sale also became a hot issue, according to both Hookstown and Big Knob Grange fair board presidents. Allison would not comment on it.

Hookstown Fair board chairman Jim Scott said the Beaver County 4-H program commission taken will be 1 percent higher than in the past.

According to the Penn State Beaver County Junior Livestock Rules for 2015, a total of 5.5 percent will be deducted from the sale price of an animal before the youth is paid. A total of 4.5 percent will be used to help defray show and sales expenses. The rules also state the sale committee reserves the right to alter this commission as necessary to cover sale expenses. In addition, a 1 percent charge will also be deducted from the animal sale price to provide money for 4-H and FFA scholarship funds.

“It’s all about the money,” said Scott.

He added that another source of contention was that a junior fair livestock committee would be running the sale, and not the Beaver County Stockman’s Club.

Lawrence County

In Lawrence County, the commission this year is 5 percent. The commission proceeds pay for the show, sale and educational needs, such as sending livestock members to camp or hosting livestock educational events, but not shows. The funds are also used to invest in livestock facilities. For example, the funds have meant $5,000 was put toward sheep and goat pens this year and $5,000 toward beef barn improvements.

Washington County

According to the Washington County Penn State Extension office, the junior fair livestock sale does not decide the commission percentage until after the sale, so the numbers for 2015 are not yet available. Washington County does charge a commission percentage to fund operational costs such as tags, advertising, show and sale supplies, exhibitor photographs (which are given to the buyers) and other costs.

In 2014, the Washington County Livestock sale took 1.54 percent out of the steers and 4 percent for other species (hogs, lambs, goats and rabbits).

Fair boards involved

Scott, Hookstown Fair board chairman, said when the Stockman’s Club decided it didn’t want to be involved in 4-H, the fair board then had to vote, whether or not to support a 4-H presence at the fair. Eleven members voted to continue to support 4-H and one person abstained from the vote. The vote meant the stockman’s club had to find a different location for its show and sale because it couldn’t be held as part of the Hookstown Fair.

Scott said the entire situation has frustrated the fair board.

“The Stockman’s Club just doesn’t want to follow rules. They can’t be in charge, that’s why there is a fair board,” said Scott.

Scott said there will still be a 4-H livestock sale Aug. 28, but the Beaver County Stockman’s Club will not be a part of it and the Hookstown sale will instead feature only market rabbits this year.

Big Knob

Meanwhile, the market livestock show and sale will go on at the Big Knob Grange Fair, also in Beaver County. Big Knob Fair Chairman Bill Steel said the board voted to support the youth who show at their fair, to ensure the livestock program continues.

“We agreed we would support the kids, community and the parents to keep the program running,” said Steel.

Steel, a former president of the Beaver County Penn State Extension advisory committee, was at the October meeting when the new rules were introduced.

He said the rules, as presented to the club members, were created without input from the clubs or fair boards. He said members asked if there was room for compromise, or a delay in implementing the rules for a year, but other than the waiver to allow a total of four livestock projects per youth, no changes were allowed. Steel said many youth had already purchased their steer projects.

“We stood behind our leaders and kids and will do what needs to be done in order for this sale to happen at Big Knob,” said Steel.

Jumping county lines

There hasn’t been a big jump from Beaver County 4-H’ers to show in Lawrence County, but that doesn’t mean they can’t show there.

Bryan Dickinson, Lawrence County Penn State Extension educator, said each county develops its own set of rules in regards to 4-H clubs, and every year they are reviewed in every county. He added there weren’t any big rule changes in 2014 in Lawrence County. He said youth can’t complete the same project in two counties, but youth can be involved in 4-H in two counties. For example, there is a 4-H’er who shows horses in Mercer County, but displays livestock in Lawrence County. He said there are 4-H’ers involved in Lawrence County 4-H clubs from Butler, Lawrence, Mercer and even Ohio.

Dickinson said there are different reasons for youth wanting to show in Lawrence County over their home counties. For example, he said, there are no poultry clubs in Lawrence County (even in years when the avian bird flu isn’t a concern), so if a youth wants to take a poultry project, they are guided to counties with a poultry or livestock club that shows poultry. Similarly, there is a dog club in Lawrence but not in Beaver or Butler counties, and if a dog enthusiast from Beaver or Butler wants to participate, they are welcome to join a Lawrence County club.

“The goal, no matter what, is to encourage as many youth as possible to be in 4-H,” Dickinson said.

Stockman’s club

Allison said the club is going through some changes, “but we’re happy about the direction we’re headed.”

The Stockman’s Club plans to hold a roundup and sale in August, but no specifics were available.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a real shame that Jim Scott and the rest of the Hookstown Fair board don’t have the same attitude that those at Big Knob like Bill Steel have. Support the local kids, not a national organization. As an alumni, I can assure you that the local kids (like my younger sisters) and their parents have been running this club for generations with no issue. To introduce new rules (without notice) and to put your foot down and say that the “club just doesn’t want to follow rules” is a bit absurd. Sounds like a power issue for the fair board; Jim Scott said it best…. “It’s all about the money.” It’s an even bigger shame that the general public isn’t going to know about the lack of livestock displays at the fair until they’ve already paid admission to get isnide the fairgrounds. I’m sure the fair board won’t be alerting the public, wouldn’t want that to dip into their funds… its all about the money, after all. I’ll be supporting the Stockman’s Club once their show and sale is announced. You can count me in as one person who will NOT be supporting the Hookstown Fair over this decision.

  2. The board at the Hookstown Fair should be ashamed of themselves. (I don’t know the whole situation, but I would like to comment on behalf of an alumni of the program and a participate at the state fair.) I really feel bad for the youth that have already started a project, with hopes of showcasing it at the fair. The amount of time, energy and funding that goes into these projects is astronomical. To not understand that and choose to go with a ‘national’ organization and not your community, really shows the lack of support that this board has for the community’s youngest participants. In a time when they are looking at adults for help, leadership and positive criticism…. this happens. I’ve gone to the fair for years, grew up in the stockman’s club and have come back to support the fair with my family. With that being said, this article makes Mr. Scott and the whole Hookstown Fair organization look very poor.

  3. I for one, am totally disgusted with how Penn State has handled many things. They never seem to support the kids as I’ve seen in my many years being a board member and having my kids who are now grown in 4-H. I am glad to see that the clubs are not going to take this sitting down and have gone out on their own. I, as well as my family, I can assure you will not attend anything ever sponsored by the Hookstown Grange. Bill Steele, is amazing and I applaud him doing what was right. Over the years, I have seen thing brewing and it always appeared as though the Big Knob Livestock 4-H Club had a target for some reason on their back. These kids worked hard for everything and to change the rules and just throw all of this at them is unwarranted. Penn State, you need to get a wake up call and support the youth!!!! Penn State is the last place I’d ever recommend for an education. We certainly have all received an education of sorts from Penn State, but not quality at that. I urge everyone to support the new club and sale at the Big Knob Grange this year and future years and boycott Hookstown!!!! Penn State, shame on you!!!! Leaders of the Stockman’s Club and Big Knob Livestock Club, you are to be commended to showing the kids you support them and teaching them to stand up for what they believe in. Great job!!!! See you at Big Knob!

    • I remember when we started the Big Knob Livestock Club. The Big Knob Grange supported us then and I’m happy that our Grange continues to support the kids and their families.

      • You should feel real lucky to have a Grange that treats the youth and their projects with importance. That is nonexistent in Hookstown.

  4. Gill said the rules were drafted by a subcommittee of a regional youth development advisory committee and then approved by the youth development advisory committee before they were rolled out to the public. Who are the members of this committee? Do they have interests that would benefit their friends or family members? Are the committee members folks that have exhibited livestock projects in the past? It seems odd that they made new rules for the clubs to abide by, but did not ask for their input or let them know that there were changes coming. The entire situation is sad, and I feel that a gross injustice is being done to both clubs. I do applaud the Big Knob Fair for sticking with their kids and families. I think there will be many sad buyers attending the Hookstown sale when they find out that meat rabbits are the only animals that they will be able to purchase.

  5. The limit of four animals per exhibitor was never an issue. We have had that rule in place for years. It just goes to show that Penn State never really listened to what the two major livestock clubs had to say. The root of it began with the formation of the county board with no input from the livestock clubs. The rules were made from a “committee” of horse, goat and rabbit clubs. One example of the rules the committee made up allowed heifers to show in the market steer class. I don’t know of any show where this is a standardized rule.
    As far as the commission from the show and sale stockmen’s collected a 3% commission and every dollar went back into the club to benefit the member. Now the new 4.5 % commission will be collected to be redistributed among all the clubs in the county instead of the one club that does 99% of the work to prepare for the show and sale.
    I feel some details about the fair board voting to support 4-H have been left out. The proposal from Stockmen’s presented to the fair board to vote on was to allow an open market class at the fair as well as the 4-H class. The classes already exist in the state class book and are reimbursable for premiums. The vote from the fair was to not add open market classes and continue to only offer the 4-H classes. I guess denying entries from the local community is how the fair board supports Beaver County 4-H.

  6. It is absurd that the Penn State Extension instituted new rules and regulations without seeking or asking for input from the Grange and Fair Committees. Basic administration/leadership procedures should include clear and on-going communication with those groups whom your decisions will affect. Kudos to Big Knob Grange, Big Knob Fair Board, and to Bill Steel for handling the situation in support of the kids and their families!

  7. In all of my years of living I have never heard of a story with the ammount of corruption that has come out about the fairboard, the Grange and Penn State University, with Cindy Seawright leading the pack. I guess when you become a county agent with the mantality that your the law, problems will arise for clubs. What Cindy Seawright and Penn State needs to remember is that they are there to help and be a guide with the curriculum they provide, nm othing more. I thought the goal here was to have a teach and learn relationship, not to command and control as Penn State, the Grange and the fair board have displayed. I think the community should rally behind the Beaver County Stockmans Club because the kids that belong to it, has done no wrong, and represent the community with honor, they truly do their best to make the best better, and are always there to help their fellow man up when he is down. It’s the members actions that made Penn State and their 4H look good not Pennstate. The Beaver County Stockmans Club are all winners in my book. It is just a shame that the stockmans club, Hookstown, and Beaver County have to put up with the likes of Jim Scott, and Penn State.

  8. This is a huge loss any way you look at it. These families rely on these sales, most with multiple entries. The fair board loses revenue from these families who spend their week there. It disappoints me that its been reduced to money and not education and pride in their community. Those families not only place animal exhibits, but they run a successful food booth with farm grown meat, they enter in their pies, quilts, vegetables and flowers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a picket line at every entrance. And rightly so given the circumstance. They haven’t even posted it to their website so faithful patrons aren’t aware. Shameful and disappointing.

    • Rachel you don’t know what your talking about. First of all Families don’t rely on this club and their project for income. In many cases with steers they struggle to break even. The amount of work and funds it takes to get a project ready for the fair is astronomical. If you get an animal that ran large because of great bloodlines and it weighed over then Cindy Seawright would push to disqualid them to show, many times resulting in a complete loss for the stockmans club member. Another thing why in the hell is the fair board so hung up on taking money off of these kids projects? I feel that is wrong. There is a lot of money and equipment invested in these projects and when the animal sells the fair board takes their cut from the total at the sale. How is that fare. Those animals are the main draw to the fair, people come from all over to see what Beaver County produced. The food booth has nothing to do with what the families make. I believe those funds go to the education fund. Here’s one for you the stokmans club have paid for that building and the fair still charges them for it. Dick Mackelhaney was a great man and a real good friend to my Grandfather John Herron, it was guys like them that really solidified that deal with the fair, the agreement was that they wold pay the fair in yearly installments until they paid it off . You know what it has been paid off for years, but they still charge the Stockmans club. 4h is supposed to be a non profit organization and it is. The lesson that the Stockmans club has is that they are to take an animal to market and teach the kids how to make a profit and a lot of those profits get sucked up but the Fair Board and the Penn State 4 H. What we forget is that everything has it’s breaking point and when Penn State came down and was changing the rules with the clubs with some of the clubs in Pennsylvania it was not fair how they make those decisions in the Stockmans club had no say in it. It’s funny because when you go to Ohio we’re West Virginia therefore H programs ran by Ohio State in West Virginia University they have no problems they don’t take money off them kids like that they don’t make decisions about the clubs without the club to be involved and what would be best for the club and not the university. In Pennsylvania Penn State’s really got their nose in that whole thing try to take 5.5 percent off of those projects that those kids bring to the fair and then they got to turn around and pay the fare bored too its just too much why do all that and make nothing why put all that effort in to something and let everybody else prosper from it except for the person doing the work. So just to set the record straight the only victim in this whole thing is the Beaver County Stockmans club.

  9. I just read this article again and it really is smoke and mirrors what PENN STATE and the Fair board is trying to sell to the public what they do for the stockmans club to justify the ammount of money that they steal from those kids every year. The building is paid for, the pens are owned by the stockmans club, the stockmans club does there own set up, tear down and clean up. The advertising, eartags, auctioneer services, photography,etc etc etc are all donated. These are the things that PSU and the fair board claim they provide and they don’t provide any of it there is no justification for the ammount of money they charge the club for. I do believe the club either obtains there judge and it is paid for by the stockmans club or that service is donated also. Even though they dont come out and sayit PSU and the fair board act like they the manage set it all up for the stockmans club and invite the club down to show at their cost. IT IS JUST NOT TRUE, TOM DARLING, CHUCK GILL, CINDY SEEWRIGHT, ALL FROM PENN STATE UNIVERSITY ARE NOT TELLING THE TRUTH HERE AND JIM SCOTT KNOWS BETTER .

  10. I agree with the above comments also. Being a 4-H Board member for many years, I know for a fact that all expenses associated with set up, tear down etc come out of the club monies. The only expense not absorbed by the club is wages for Penn State/Cindie Searight to be at the fair on sale night. All other items are property, bought and paid for by the club and/or donated by private citizens. I don’t know what Penns State is trying to sell, but we’re not buying. The have never stood behind these kids and it is evident they never will! You would think with all that is going on lately, that Penn State would do everything in their power to accommodate and support the youth. Penn State, shame on you and your affiliiates, employees, etc.

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