LIMA — This upcoming Allen County Fair, 16-year-old Payton Halker will try for her sixth win as goat grand champion. But this time, she has a rival in her 9-year-old sister, Emerson.
“’I’m gonna get grand champion and beat Peyton.’ That’s what she keeps telling everyone,” Halker said. “She’s a feisty one. She said she’s gonna beat me, so we’ll see what happens.”
Emerson has an uphill battle in front of her. Her older sister dedicates two to four hours a day cleaning goat cages and exercising her animals to prep them for the Allen County Junior Fair. She’s their personal trainer, and she’s a perfectionist.
“If I see like one mark of poop on their butt, I have to make it clean,” she said.
For many fairgoers, the junior fair is little more than an exhibit of farm animals, but for young people like Payton and Emerson, it’s a testament to up a year of hard work. From cows to rabbits, youth from across the county assemble their animals to be shown in front of judges and shipped to market.
4-H Educator Kelly Coble said raising animals teaches young people discipline, responsibility and management principles. They have to make sure the animals are clean, healthy and trained for a showing. As Coble explained, these junior farmers are developing a type of quality insurance program for a final product.
Everyone is encouraged to check out the animals in their pens and ask questions of their handlers, Coble said, to learn about the details of raising animals. However, the public should not feed the animals.
“People always ask, ‘Can we feed them this?’ and we say, ‘No, they can’t eat human food,” Coble said. “Those aren’t good for them.”