As the entry deadline for this year’s Lebanon Area Fair youth ag competitions approaches, Lori Voight shared how these competitions can positively impact youth, their families, and their communities.
Lori was raised on her parents’ hobby farm (a farm that is not one’s main source of income) in the State College area. As a youth, she was involved in 4-H and the Pennsylvania Angus Association, for which she showed Angus cattle.
Lori’s husband, Del, has a farming background from his early years in New Jersey. His father worked for Agway, and Del showed Holstein heifers for 4-H.
“I would say when we look back in agriculture, we have about five generations of our family in ag,” Lori said. “So, we would be like the fifth generation, but not the same farm.”
The two met while attending Penn State. Post-grad, Del completed some graduate work at Iowa State. When Del accepted a job offer, he and Lori moved to Iowa for a short time.
In 1993, Del accepted an offer for an agronomist or “plant scientist” position, as Lori called it, at Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lebanon County. This brought them to the area.
The couple purchased about an 18-acre property in Fredericksburg and built their own hobby farm in anticipation of their growing family.
“We knew the value of growing up in programs like that and wanted to raise our own kids in a similar environment to give them the same kind of opportunities,” Lori said.
Lori and Del now have three adult children: 25-year-old Hunter, 22-year-old Elizabeth, and 18-year-old James. When their children were little, they had a flock of chickens on their hobby farm.
“They would collect their brown eggs. And they would sell them in the development that we are kind of on the edge of,” Lori said. “So, they would pull a red wagon around. And they would sell their eggs. And that’s when they started to raise money for their college education. That was their first income.”
Their children joined 4-H when they turned 8 years old and remained involved in the organization until they turned 19. During their time in 4-H, the three showed Angus heifers, steers, known as market steers or crossbred market steers, and pigs.
Elizabeth also had a Quarter Horse that she showed.
James will show a steer and two pigs at the 2023 Lebanon Area Fair.
In addition to showing their animals for 4-H at the Lebanon Area Fair and the PA Farm Show, the Voight family has attended Angus shows throughout the state, along the east coast, and across the nation, including national shows in Grand Island, NE, and Tulsa, OK.
The Voight family has also been involved in hosting several ag shows.
To prepare for youth ag competitions, Lori said her children feed their animals twice a day, walk their animals (and train their animals to walk with them) daily, ride their horse daily, halter break their cattle, and muck the stalls. They would also rinse their cattle daily.
“And then, they had this thing called a blower. And it was like a big hair dryer for cattle,” Lori said. “And they would blow them dry. And it would train the hair to go a certain way. So, they would do that every day as they’re getting ready for a show.”
Hunter, Elizabeth, and James have held officer positions within these organizations. Through serving on the judging team, they learned how to evaluate animals.
“So, they would pick their own animals when we would go to a farm and purchase them,” Lori said. “They would pick out the ones they wanted to show. So, it was very meaningful from the start because they were the ones that were involved in that.”
James currently serves as president of the Lebanon County 4-H Livestock Club and the Pennsylvania Angus Association, through which he has learned how to run a meeting.
James also serves as a chairperson for the Eastern Regional Angus Show alongside two chairpersons who are around his age. The show, which will be held at the PA Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg next year, will feature competitors from states mostly east of the Mississippi. Through this position, he has learned how to oversee committees and interact with an executive group.
Elizabeth, through serving as secretary, learned how to set up a Gmail account when it first came out, communicate via email, and create meeting minutes.
Through participating in youth ag competitions, Lori said youth can learn “all of your leadership traits, and under that, you know, it would be anything from sportsmanship, developing a strong work ethic, learning how to be a humble winner and a gracious loser, learning how to have patience when your animal isn’t cooperating, but yet you worked really hard to get them there, and they don’t perform on the day of the event … understanding the value of hard work, seeing it pay off in different ways.”
In addition to the above soft skills, Lori said her children learned about the financial side of ag through saving the money they earned from selling their show animals for their college education.
In 2020, Hunter graduated with a major in agricultural science and a minor in wildlife and fishery science. In 2022, Elizabeth graduated with a major in education and a focus on early childhood education. This fall, James will pursue a major in aerospace engineering. All three have attended or will attend Penn State.
The Voight family’s involvement in the Lebanon Area Fair and youth ag competitions exposed them to additional opportunities.
When the couple moved to the area in the early ’90s, Del’s job “naturally had him quite involved with the fair,” said Lori. Her husband soon learned from Leon Arnold how to cook the potatoes for the fair’s annual chicken barbecue and ham dinner. Del eventually took over for Leon, cooking about 6,000 potatoes every July to continue the local tradition.
Lori served as the 4-H Beef Leader before becoming pregnant. Throughout the years, their children have volunteered at the fair, including helping with different food booths and the annual chicken barbeque and ham dinner, washing and wrapping the potatoes, setting up and collapsing tables, and other duties.
Elizabeth was crowned the 2017 Lebanon Area Fair Queen and the 2018 PA Fair Queen. She even ran for Miss Pennsylvania this spring.
“That was kind of neat,” Lori said of Elizabeth’s involvement in the pageants. “So, she’s helped out a little bit with the fair queen program. And that kind of gave her an interest in doing the queen thing. … So, that was kind of something that I would attribute the Lebanon Area Fair to was, you know, learning that you can speak out about things that are important to you.”
To those considering getting involved in youth ag competitions, Lori said, “There’s so many things your children can get involved in and so many different opportunities. And no doubt, 4-H can grow youth. And it’s a great family thing as well. It’s something that you can do together. And it supports your community when you’re there.”
“And I think, a lot of times, the general public is getting further and further away from what they know about agriculture. So it’s a great opportunity for community outreach and to educate people about where their food comes from and things about agriculture that would be important to know.”
The deadline to enter the 2023 Lebanon Area Fair youth ag competitions is received or postmarked by June 30 for paper applications and submitted by 11:59 p.m. July 7 for online applications. Late applications will be accepted until July 10 for an additional $20 fee per entry.
The Lebanon Area Fair is requesting online applications whenever possible. Visit the fair’s website to read exhibitor guidelines.
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