Behind the Shows: Stark Co. 4-H’er manages uncertain fair preparations

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A girl walks a beef steer.
Addy Brenner, of the Tusci Barnyard Hi-Steppers 4-H Club, walks Stetson, her shorthorn market steer, at her family farm in North Lawrence, Ohio, July 10. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

NORTH LAWRENCE, Ohio — Addy Brenner, 16, has known for a while that she wants to be a farmer when she grows up. This spring has only confirmed that.

Brenner’s family farms 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, and raises breeding beef cattle. She has shown market steers for years in 4-H, and is continuing to get her market steers and pygmy goats ready for the Stark County Fair this year, while still waiting to see exactly how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the fair schedule.

In the mean time, this spring, her school closed, along with other schools in Ohio, keeping her and other students home to learn from a distance. During that time, she would wake up at 6 a.m. to start school, finish her work by 9 a.m., and have the rest of the day to do whatever she wanted.

“I liked staying home … ‘cause I got to farm,” Brenner explained. “When they’re in the fields a lot, I’m usually at school.”

This year, around when the pandemic hit, her family was starting to plow their fields and getting ready to plant. Brenner got to be involved with that this year, and her dad, Blake Brenner, taught her how to sow soybeans.

“It was fun,” she said. “I enjoyed it a lot.”

Summer

Now, in the summer, it’s a more normal time for Brenner to be home during the day. Her steers and goats have fans set up to blow air into their pens, keeping them cooler during the day.

Because of the hot weather, Brenner has been walking her steers in the evening, when it cools down more. During the day, she just ties them for a little bit in their pens, next to the fans, to get them used to standing for the fair.

Both steers are getting easier to work with. The simmental, Kolby, is still stubborn sometimes, so Brenner plans to use Stetson, her shorthorn, for showmanship.

She last weighed her market steer June 27. The shorthorn was 1,170 pounds, and the simmental weighed in at 1,220 pounds.

Stetson, Brenner said, hasn’t been gaining weight as quickly as Kolby recently.

“A lot of it has to do with this heat,” she explained.

When it gets hot out, the steers slow down on how much they eat. Shorthorns in particular struggle with this, Brenner said. So, Stetson is on a new feed that should help his weight gain pick back up again.

A girl ties a steer's halter to a fence next to a fan.
Since it’s been hot recently, Addy Brenner has mostly been walking her market steers in the evening, when it cools down. During the day, she ties them in their pens near their fans for a little bit to get them used to standing for the fair. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

Fair season

Brenner’s 4-H club, the Tusci Barnyard Hi-Steppers, is just starting its meetings back up again. They had a meeting scheduled in March the same weekend things shut down. That meeting was canceled, and the club didn’t meet again until July 12, when they finally were able to catch up again.

The club has missed much of its usual community service work this year. Brenner said they usually do things like visiting a nursing home for Easter, and walking dogs for the humane society, in the spring. But now, she and other 4-H’ers are looking ahead, to the fair.

The Stark County Fair Board announced in June it is planning on a full fair for this year, with some modifications.

Buyers

Brenner has a carcass steer for this year in addition to her two market steers. She isn’t sure if the fair will still have a carcass class, since some people didn’t buy their market projects this year or sold them off early, not knowing what the fair would look like this year.

“They didn’t want to take a chance on buying something and … not getting something back from it,” she said.

For her, the risk is lower. Her family farms and has a relationship with a processor, and plenty of friends and family members who could use the beef. Also, she has a consistent buyer for one of her market steers.

For the other, she’ll be sending out buyer letters starting in August. She usually writes and sends 25-30 letters each year.

Change of pace

Brenner also got two pygmy goats to show at the fair.

“It’s a change of pace,” she said. “I wanted something little, and I thought a pygmy goat would be fun.”

She’s showed her friend’s pygmy goats before, and decided to get a doe, Presley, and a wether, Louis, of her own to show this year.

Pygmy goats and cattle have one thing in common: they’re both stubborn.

As Brenner walks Louis out of a barn, he digs in his heels, then jumps forward into the driveway. Once she stops and stands with him, Louis seems more content. When setting up pygmy goats, exhibitors crouch down beside them. Brenner said this is difficult for her, since she has bad knees from playing softball.

But she still feels calmer walking a goat than a steer. If a goat gets away from her during a show, she explained, it’s less of a risk than having a 1,000-plus-pound steer on the loose.

A girl crouches next to a pygmy goat.
Addy Brenner, 16, crouches next to her pygmy goat, a wether named Louis, at her family’s farm in North Lawrence, Ohio, July 10. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

Preparation

There are a few things left to do before the fair. Brenner will take her pygmy goat to a showmanship clinic to learn more about what to expect for her first year. She will study and compete in skillathon, and finish filling out her project books. She’ll work on decorations for the fair with her 4-H club at an August meeting. She’ll work on fitting her animals for the shows.

For now, she’s just continuing to care for and work with her animals every day, and waiting to find out more about the final fair plans for the year.

A girl stands in front of a barn with a market steer.
Addy Brenner’s market steers have been growing fast. Kolby, her Simmental, last weighed in at 1,220 pounds June 27. Brenner stands with Kolby at her family’s farm, in North Lawrence, Ohio, July 10. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

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Reporter Sarah Donaldson is a former 4-Her and a Mount Union graduate from Columbiana County, Ohio. She enjoys playing and writing music, cooking, and storytelling in many forms. She can be reached at 800-837-3419 or sarah@farmanddairy.com.

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