Exhibitors will be able to use a new barn at this year’s Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show, set for Friday, March 4, through Tuesday, March 8, at the Alachua County Fairgrounds.
The Alachua County Youth Fair Board worked with the county’s Board of County Commissioners to deliver the new, 50-by-175-foot barn, which has a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for Saturday, Feb. 27. The barn is expected to provide the needed housing space for the fair’s livestock.
Many local businesses, nonprofits and the local agricultural community contributed to the barn’s construction, said Cynthia Sanders, Alachua County Extension Office director of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Overall, the fair provides an educational platform for agriculturally minded Alachua County youth to present projects they have worked on for several months, Sanders said. Some of the areas the projects focus on are beef, goat, poultry, rabbit and dairy.
Sanders said the show has happened since the 1950s and started with only beef. It was reorganized into the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show in 1981 and now includes both livestock and non-livestock projects.
Sanders said she was a 4-H and Future Farmers of America member during the first organized show in 1981 and has been involved since then.
FFA and 4-H are youth development organizations that put a strong emphasis on the agricultural industry.
Participation in the show has steadily increased over the past few years and reached about 420 youths this year, Sanders said. The fair helps both the youth participating and the community as a whole, she added.
The fair “is the only youth fair within Alachua County that gives 4-H and FFA youth the opportunity to develop life skills to become tomorrow’s leaders,” Sanders said.
Bridget Stice, an IFAS extension agent in Polk County, agreed by saying that such shows are beneficial to all youth involved and teach valuable life skills.
“They learn responsibility, financial management, record keeping, sportsmanship and so much more,” Stice said. “While it gives them an appreciation for agriculture and helps them understand where their food comes from, it develops those skills that they will need to become productive adult citizens no matter what industry they choose.”
Saundra TenBroeck, an undergraduate coordinator in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida, also said she believes it is helpful for youth to be involved in agriculture and that agricultural events provide a gateway to an industry that’s unknown to much of society.
“As a nation, the average citizen is several generations removed from production agriculture,” TenBroeck said. “Less than 2 percent of our population is involved in our food-production industries.”
TenBroeck said shows like the Alachua County fair have positive outcomes. Some are less obvious than others, she explained, and some are unexpected.
“As a mom, it is a great opportunity for she and I to spend quality time together,” said TenBroeck, whose daughter is showing a bull at this year’s show. “As an animal scientist, it is a chance for me to teach her about the industry to which I have dedicated my career.”