Monday, February 06, 2023

Blue ribbon winners all

| August 21, 2022 12:00 AM

As the 2022 Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo wraps up today, we’re handing out a blue ribbon to all the Flathead Valley youth who showed off their hard work and talent this week in the barns and exhibit buildings at the fairgrounds.

From raising animals over the last several months and years to perfecting their talents for submissions in the fine arts and culinary skills categories, it’s great to see youth taking part in an endeavor that provides so much opportunity.

For Michelle and Morgan Baker, who serve as swine superintendents, the process leading up to and at the fair for youths in 4-H and FFA is more about the experience than the end results of what ribbon they might earn.

“The end of the show day, [the kids] still walk away successful,” Morgan said. “The ribbon doesn’t matter to us. It’s the time and effort.”

Beyond the day-to-day lessons of hard work in the barn and the business side of taking an animal to market, there’s another important lesson that comes up. Mark Lalum, chair of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s Agriculture Committee and former agriculture teacher in Kalispell School District’s FFA program, noted that the program is more important today than it was in the past.

“Learning where our food comes from and the process,” he said. “These aren’t pets. These animals are for meat production, and that’s another important part of the learning process.”

Even an untrained spectator at the show ring can appreciate all the hard work that has gone into raising and training all the animals from the smallest rabbit to the largest beef cattle.

Seeing that hard work pay off is great. Like for Abby Sliter, who got a call back for showing her pig Eggy. Sliter is in her fifth year showing pigs and puts an emphasis on the importance of “practice, practice, practice.”

“It feels really good, because I worked with my pig, like, a lot,” Sliter said.

The passion the competitors have for caring for and training their animals throughout the year is something to be applauded.

“I think finding your thing that you’re really good at, and that you just love to do — lights a fire in you — is really important to have,” said Laila Sargent, who marked her first year competing in the senior division for sheep.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t send a thank you to the local businesses and organizations that show up year after year to the 4-H/FFA Market Stock Sale to support the youth by purchasing a steer, hog or lamb. It’s a great way to reward the youth for their hard work and also help them put money in the piggy bank to pay for college or purchase their first vehicle.

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