4-H kids borrow cows so they can show at the fair

PAIGE CHAMBERLIN, 9, snuggles up between two cows in the 4-H dairy barn at the 75th Addison County Field Days Fair on Tuesday. Like her father before her, Paige doesn’t live on a farm so she leases a cow from Blue Spruce Farm to raise and show at the fair.  Independent photo/Sophia Afsar-Keshmiri

NEW HAVEN — For the second year in a row, Jonathan Chamberlin’s daughter, Paige, 9, was able to show animals at the Addison County Field Days Fair through the same 4-H lease program that he participated in as a child. 

In this day and age the majority of the 4-H’ers that lead their animals around the fairgrounds show pen are participating as part of this animal leasing program, according to Addison County 4-H educator Martha Seifert.

The program gives Addison County kids who don’t live on farms the opportunity to experience the animal husbandry lifestyle. It was initiated 25 to 30 years ago “because there’s fewer and fewer of us that grew up on farms,” Seifert said.

“And this gives kids the opportunity to work with large animals,” she said. 

The 75th annual Addison County Fair and Field Days kicked off at the county fairgrounds in New Haven on Tuesday, and will run through Saturday evening, which will be capped off with fireworks.

Rain always seems to come to the fair; this year it arrived on the first day and was more plentiful than usual. Organizers canceled Tuesday evening’s Demolition Derby, but scheduled to hold it on Wednesday evening. 

Due to muddy conditions on Wednesday, Field Days officials had closed the main public parking entrance and welcome center located off Route 17 and were asking that attendees enter the fairgrounds via the farm gate on Field Days Road instead. The main entrance was expected to reopen by Wednesday evening.

Back at the show arena on Tuesday, youngster paraded their cows, all much bigger than their human-counterpart, around the competition pen in surprisingly crisp and unstained white uniforms.

The New England-wide 4-H animal loaner program is set up so that host farms choose whether or not families pay a fee for participation. 

“Some of them (families) pay like $1 for the year, and others, there’s no fee,” Seifert said. 

“It teaches some responsibility, decision making, critical thinking, all those life skills.”

And it doesn’t hurt that the kids have fun too. 

Chamberlin, 43, didn’t grow up on a farm, and neither do his kids, and the program has provided the opportunity for himself, Paige and his 12-year-old son, Colin, to raise animals. 

At Tuesday’s 4-H Field Days cow competition, the hard work that Paige has been putting in since April yielded a blue ribbon for her Spring Asher Calf named Rain. 

She showed her love for the animals as she hopped over to the animals and snuggled into a perfect Paige-sized-nook between Rain and another calf when asked for a photo. 

She gave an emphatic “Yeah!” when asked if she had fun raising cows.

And with a huge smile, she said she enjoyed the activities of walking and talking to Rain. 

Paige leased Rain from Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, the same farm that Middlebury Union High School rising senior Emma Dearing, 17, has been leasing from for 10 years.

THIS FAMILY LEASES a cow from Four Hills Farm in Bristol so that they can take part in the animal-raising lifestyle and learn the lessons it teaches. Shown from right are Sadie Moulton, 29, Bella Roell, 13, and Kylee Shepard, with family members on the first day of the fair. 
Independent photo/Steve James

In Tuesday’s competition, she and her red and white Holstein named Believe-Alliah were awarded Junior Champion in the Holstein category. 

When asked what she has most enjoyed about the program, she said she loves the people she’s had the opportunity to meet. 

Blue Spruce Farm owner Eugene Audet, 63, proudly watched as the two champions got their photo taken. He said his farm has been participating as a host for the 4-H lease program for years. 

He reiterated Seifert’s statement that the program allows non-farm kids to see what farm-life is like. 

Additionally, he said participants learn to communicate with the larger 4-H community that they are involved in, whether that pre-competition or during days in the 4-H barn at Field Days. 

Another Addison County farm, Four Hills Farm in Bristol, has been hosting participants for many years as well. Sadie Moulton, 29, first started leasing from the farm 15 years ago, and on Tuesday her sister Bella Roell, 13, and her niece Kylee Shepard, 12, both showed in Tuesday’s Field Day competition and won awards for their Four Hills Farm calves. 

Moulton said that in total, the family had five kids show 11 calves at this year’s fair.

“We have six kids (at the fair) but one technically isn’t old enough to bring (a calf) yet but helps a lot,” she noted. 

The family said that they were grateful for how hands-on, helpful and “really generous” Four Hills Farm has been throughout the process and over the years.

Seifert said the kids work hard to prepare for competition. 

“The kids put (in) a lot of work, and it’s not just fair week, they have to start working with them, like, April, May.” 

“They’ve really worked hard, and we’ve had some really smiley faces in the room today with the ribbons.” 


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