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Jefferson County livestock sale generates huge premiums for kids

Darrin VanBibber, left, purchased the grand champion market steer from Rider Robertson at the Jefferson County 4-H and FFA livestock sale June 29 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Ledger)
Darrin VanBibber, left, purchased the grand champion market steer from Rider Robertson at the Jefferson County 4-H and FFA livestock sale June 29 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Ledger)
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FAIRFIELD – The Jefferson County 4-H and FFA livestock sale occurs on the last day of the fair every year, like clockwork.

This year’s Greater Jefferson County Fair was subdued because it was closed to the public and the special events like the carnival and grandstand entertainment had to be canceled.

But the livestock sale that ended the fair on Monday, June 29, was anything but boring. In fact, it was a sterling success, beyond anyone’s expectations.

The sale raised $75,000, more than double the premium money in the past. Brandon Ledger, head of the committee that organized the auction, said more than 50 buyers participated in the auction, which he said was a great number.

“I’d like to think [the attendance] was due in part to our committee sending extra invitations, calling people on the phone the week before, and stopping to see them in person,” Ledger said.

The auction committee tried something new this year, hosting a dinner for the buyers and participating 4-H kids. In a typical year, 4-H kids bring their animals to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and leave them in the barns all week until Monday’s auction. They couldn’t do that this year because of COVID-19, and the animals could only spend one night in the barn before they had to leave.

The auction committee itself is new this year, formed last September specifically to encourage more individuals and businesses to participate in the auction. The committee planned to hold an appreciation dinner all along, even before COVID-19 hit.

“We wanted to hold a dinner before the sale to create a little camaraderie, to make the buyers feel welcome and thank them for showing support for the kids who worked so hard on their animals,” Ledger said.

A buyer purchased an animal from a 4-Her by bidding on ribbons that represented the animal at the auction. They paid a certain amount of money for the meat, plus the premium that goes to the 4-Her or FFA member to defray the costs of raising the animal and preparing it for the fair. Ledger said the new system of bidding was nice because there was no math involved, because earlier auctions had buyers bid on the animals on a per pound basis.

Ledger was in FFA about a dozen years ago, and he knows all about how important the livestock sale is to kids. It’s often the seed money they need to buy another animal for next year’s fair.

Ledger said he’s grateful to Nutrien Ag Solutions for helping with the marketing and advertising costs, and to the Jefferson County Cattlemen and Jefferson County Pork Producers for preparing and serving the meal that night.

Ledger said he’s not sure if the committee will follow this same format next year, but he and the other committee members were certainly pleased with how it went.

“Now we have some results of how it worked this year and can re-evaluate those before making our decisions for next year,” he said.