Support Thurston County Youth at the Annual Market Animal Sale

Blake with his 4-H market steer
"I have earned a lot of money selling my heifers and steers over my years in 4-H," shares Blake, 14. "I have put most of it in my college account, so I can save it and use it later when I really need the money for college." Photo courtesy: Brooke Hicks

When it comes to teaching kids responsibility, economics, work ethic and self-confidence, there may be nothing better than animals. 4-H Clubs and Future Famers of America (FFA) are two organizations that work hard to support youth and animals, knowing the benefits for kids are long-term and significant. You can help support Thurston County youth in both organizations at the annual Youth Market Animal Sale that happens each year as part of the Thurston County Fair.

Crew Hicks with his market steer
“I’ve learned the more time you put in the better life they live,” says Crew Hicks, 9. “Also more time spent with the steers the better in the show and they’re easier to handle.” Photo courtesy: Brooke Hicks

For kids in 4-H and the FFA who choose to do a market project, they have a year of hard work ahead of them. After deciding on an animal—cow, sheep, goat, pig or rabbit—they work every day to raise that animal into the healthiest stock to hopefully not only win a ribbon at the Thurston County Fair, but to fetch big numbers at the animal sale afterwards. This means learning about the best feed for a market animal, monitoring its health and weight, making sure its tame enough to be managed in the show ring and more. “4-H has taught me discipline and hard work,” shares Jake, age 12. “There’s no such thing as a day off when you raise steers!” Jake is using his market money to save for college.

Kids have to do weigh-ins with a local vet that even include muscle/fat density tests for some stock in the months leading up to fair. And then they have to promote their animal. This including marketing their project to local businesses and individuals, in the hopes of getting add-on donations and a higher price come auction day. Add-on donations are simply donations that go to the youth without the purchase of their stock animal. “4-H has taught me confidence and patience,” Zane, age 14, shares. “I have been investing my earnings and really want to purchase my own farm someday.” For Zane, the hardest part comes with the selling of the animal. “It’s hard to see them leave our farm because we really care for our animals.”

“Showing cows has taught me how important it is to know that it is not just about winning and making money, but about learning new things and meeting new people along the way,” shares Brynn, 10. Photo courtesy: Brooke Hicks

All this hard work accumulates at the Thurston County Fair. Happening July 27-31, 2022, the Fair is where the youth find out if all their hard work pays off in both the show and auction rings. Hundreds of kids in local 4-H and FFA groups, with ages ranging from 9 to 18 years old, will be showing off their animals with a final push toward their sales goals. “Public are encouraged to visit the animals all week during the Fair,” shares Brooke Hicks with 24 Carrots 4-H Club. “4-H and FFA members are required to take shifts in the barn to engage the public. This is an opportunity for them to answer questions.”

And it’s your opportunity to check over the stock and see which one(s) you want to bid on at the Market Animal Sale. This year there are 17 market steers headed for the sale, the most Thurston County has had since the 1990s.

Sawyer Hicks with his market steer for the Thurston County Youth Animal Sale
“The hardest part of 4-H is the consistency it demands,” shares Sawyer Hicks, 17. “It is one thing to get up early to feed a cow that you just got, it is much harder to get up early everyday over the course of the year. This really taught more about hard work.” Photo courtesy: Brooke Hicks

If you’ve never been involved in a youth animal sale, you have three choices if you purchase an animal. You can take it home, and keep it as a pet, lawnmower, etc. You can have it processed for consumption. If you choose to have it processed, the sales committee handles everything and will return it you as frozen steaks, roasts, burger, etc. Or, you can choose to turn the animal. In this case, the animal is re-sold immediately to a commercial buyer and you just pay the difference between the auction price and what the commercial buyer pays. Regardless of what you choose, you will be supporting a youth’s hard work and dreams of next year.

“4-H has taught me responsibility, leadership and the need to take care of my community,” share Harper Hicks, age 12. “I plan on using my profit to buy my next year’s project and in the future, pay for my college education. In past years, I have donated to the Thurston County Food Bank. This year, I am going to donate to Thurston County Joint Animal Services.” Like Zane, she says the hardest part is letting her animal go after spending so much time and work on them.

Hicks children with a few of their steers in the background on their farm
For the Hicks Family, 4-H and raising market steers in a family affaire. Photo courtesy: Brooke Hicks

Add-on donations can also be made to the sale committee. “The market sale committee is comprised of volunteers that organize, promote, and conduct the market animal sale,” explains Brooke. “Some members have been involved in this sale for the entire 31 years of its history. They collect seller entry forms, ensure that mandatory health records are completed, hire the auctioneer, organize a local commercial buyer for the ‘turned’ animals, purchase awards for show winners, and facilitate processing for all market animals.”

The Thurston County Youth Market Animal Sale happens July 30 at 6 p.m. in the Hicks Lake Barn at the Thurston County Fairgrounds. Both purchases of animals and the add-on donations are tax deductible. To register as a bidder, go to the Thurston County Youth Market Animal Sale website or in person at the sales office on the day of the sale.

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