Ag Time with Abby: Celebrating the many ‘firsts’ from the Polk County Youth Fair


THE 2017 ANNUAL POLK COUNTY YOUTH FAIR has come and gone. Every year is a great one, but this year we saw several “firsts” on multiple fronts!

We welcomed in our new director, Lori Newton, to the PCYF family.

On Sunday, for the first time ever, the market hog sale started at 6:30 a.m. due to weather complications and the whole fair was closed by 3 p.m. sharp.

Then on Tuesday, at the market hog sale, a hog that was raised by Bailey Tilley — our fellow FFA Chapter member and friend who recently passed away — sold for $10 a pound. That was another notable first for the fair, as no other exhibitor has ever been allowed to show another exhibitor’s animal under the original exhibitor’s name. All of the money from Bailey’s market hog will go into a scholarship fund to allow another student a chance to show at a future Polk County Youth Fair.

While the price per pound might have not been record breaking, another student broke the record with her market steer, Kodak. Stephany Ruff, a freshman at Frostproof High School, went into the auction on Friday night not knowing what the final bid was going to be.

You see, the goal of sale day is to have a confirmed buyer. Every participant is supposed to send out as many buyer letters as possible throughout the course of raising their animal. With that being done, hopefully come sale day each exhibitor knows they have someone who will be there bidding on their animal. I’ve been in the same position as many other exhibitors though, not knowing if any of my buyers would be able to bid on my hog, so it does get a little nerve wracking in the holding area hearing the numbers of sales before you.

Stephany’s dad had a little surprise up his sleeve for his daughter. After tragedy struck in the Ruff family, he wanted to give his daughter a reason to smile again. Walter Ruff connected with a few different businesses to make that happen. With the help of Lightsey Cattle Company, Mosaic, and Dr. Robert Gukich, his goal was achieved and moved his daughter to tears.

Those were a few major firsts; however, there were obviously tons more!

Harlee Farmer, of the Dundee Middle School FFA Chapter, was a first-time exhibitor. She showed her yearling commercial heifer, Clementine, in her mom’s very first FFA jacket!

Chadd Temples, from Ridge Community FFA, was one of the first members from his chapter to show a market hog at the youth fair, and he also competed in whip popping. It was Chadd’s senior year, but he shares, “If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have gotten involved my freshman year!” His younger sister, Bri, has already made plans for upcoming years for herself. She plans to continue showing market hogs and add a commercial heifer in next year.

I love getting to hear what plans new exhibitors have for years to come. The Polk County Youth Fair is something you just can’t do once — after one time, you get hooked and you have to keep doing it.

I was talking to an exhibitor’s grandfather and he was sharing stories of his first youth fair, then his son’s first youth fair, and now he’s watching his granddaughters show their heifers in the same ring he once showed in.

That is what it’s all about. It really is a family tradition. You make lifelong friends in the barn, and it’s something everyone looks forward to each year. I love participating as a volunteer and helping new participants find their way. I’m already excited to see what great things 2018 will have for us to offer!

Thank you to the volunteers, the parents, the committee members, community supporters, and teachers, who work together to give us the best county fair anyone could dream of. Congratulations to all exhibitors, both new and old … we had the best year yet!

For those who had their last fair this year, don’t worry, you’ll be able to come back. We love having volunteers, and I am sure I will be seeing you in the barn.

That wraps it up for this month. While you are getting ready for the Florida Strawberry Festival to begin, take time to thank the lovely Plant City strawberry farmers!

CREDIT

story by ABBY CRAWFORD
photo by TOM HAGERTY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: : Abby Crawford is currently enrolled at Warner University, majoring in Agriculture Studies with hopes to go into the agriculture education or communications field. She is the former president of the Haines City High School FFA chapter as well as the voice behind 97 Country’s segment, “Ag Time with Abby,” which airs the first Friday of every month during the Breakfast Club with Roger and Melissa. Abby is also the 2014 Polk County Farm Bureau Youth Speech Contest Winner. For questions, FFA news, or FFA story ideas, email Abby at abbigailreis@gmail.com.