Photos by Karen West
Three generations: Quincy Scott shows Thunder, the steer he raised for the fair. He is following the footsteps of his dad, Colt, center, and grandma, Jill Scott, on right.

Cattle and pigs and bunnies … oh my!

By Karen West

Nearly three-dozen members of the Methow Valley 4-H program, the county’s largest, will be showing pigs, steers and rabbits at the Okanogan County Fair this year.

Many are carrying on family tradition; about half of the local 4-H members are at least the second generation of their families to be involved.

Emily Paul,17, and her brother, Bodie,15, are among the 22 Methow Valley Cascaders participating in the flourishing swine program who will take pigs to the fair to show and sell.

Emily has been raising and selling swine since she was 11. This summer she also worked full time at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery, starting her shift at 5:30 a.m. And Bodie has been learning wrangling skills with Cascade Wilderness Outfitters. So the siblings, who raised three pigs — two for the fair and one for their family — helped each other with pig care.

“I save all my money for college,” Emily said. The Liberty Bell High School senior wants to become a nurse and will apply to the four-year nursing degree program at Wenatchee Valley College.

Her pig, Einstein, weighed in at 270 pounds late last week, which could mean another $1,000 toward college tuition if he sells for the $4 a pound her swine usually fetch. Pigs have to weigh between 230 and 290 pounds for the fair. Asked what the judges want to see, Emily said a long back and nice back legs are important.

And like all other exhibiters, her project record book will be judged. It contains photographs of Einstein and details such as what kind of feed he was given, when he was fed, health and weight records and receipts for all costs.

Photo by Karen West
Longtime 4-H member Emily Paul feeds Einstein, the pig she plans to sell to add to her college fund.

But there’s a lot more to 4-H than the annual county fair. Emily, like others interviewed for this story, said 4-H is a really important youth organization because of the skills it teaches — public speaking, presentation, the importance of teamwork and community service.

“4-H teaches you responsibility,” she said. “What was really good for me that my mom noticed is that I learned how to finish a project, not just stop in the middle.”

Community service is required. Local 4-H youth make candy ball decorations for the Neighbors Helping Neighbors holiday food baskets each year. They’ve also re-seeded fire-scorched land and cleaned up the Shafer Museum’s grounds in the spring.

Three-generations raise steers

Carlton resident Jill Scott grew up with three sisters and a dad who raised a few head of cattle and got all his girls started in 4-H showing steers. “We were strictly animals,” she said of their 4-H projects; no crafts and sewing for those girls.

These days Scott co-chairs the 4-H steer group with Erin White. Steers are more expensive to raise and show than pigs or sheep and require more infra-structure, she explained. But for families that raise cattle, they often are the animal of choice. For the Scotts, showing steers is a three-generation legacy.

Scott’s son, Colt Scott, is a grown man raising cattle on adjacent land. He and his wife, Christine, have three children, plus more than 100 chickens, two ducks, two rabbits and a dog.   

Colt Scott said he started showing steers at the fair when he was 6, in the junior open category. At age 8, the 4-H program considers members old enough to sell market animals. Colt raised and showed steers all the way through high school.

Asked what was memorable about 4-H, he said it taught him to accept the hard work and responsibility for “doing stuff you don’t want to do, when you don’t want to do it.”

Now those lessons are being passed on to Colt’s children.

Colt’s son Quincy, 10, started showing steers in the junior open category. This year he is eligible to take Thunder, his 1,400 pound, 18-month-old steer to the fair as a market animal that could fetch $3 a pound. Steers must weigh a minimum of 1,000 pounds. There is no upper weight limit.

Quincy has been responsible for Thunder since he was a calf weighing just 80 pounds. Back then he was fed one coffee can of grain and one flake of hay twice a day. Thunder now eats six coffee cans of grain and two flakes of hay twice a day.

Photos by Karen West A family tradition: Teagan Scott, 3, her brother, Ole Scott, 4, and big brother, Quincy Scott, 10, show off some of their chickens.

Besides feedings, Quincy’s care has included cleaning Thunder’s stall, disposing of his waste, and grooming and trimming him for presentation at the fair.

By the time the judges call his name on show day, Quincy said he will be standing “in a big line” with an animal he has watered, fed, exercised, washed and combed.

He will relax Thunder the steer with a belly scratch, hold his head just so, and use a small pole called a “show stick” to get the steer squared up and looking good.

Four Methow Valley 4-H Cascaders will show steers this year. And like many families, all the Scotts will camp at the fairgrounds for four nights. Quincy’s 3-year-old sister, Teagan, and 4-year-old brother, Ole, likely will show chickens or rabbits in the open division. Ole has been given his own steer to raise for next year’s fair.

Jill Scott said she looks forward to the fair for the chance to visit with friends made when she was a kid in 4-H and who like her, are now there with their kids and grandkids.

More fur but no feathers

Emily Buzzard, leader of the local Fur and Feathers division, said there are nine Methow Valley youngsters showing rabbits at the fair — the most in several years. Her daughter, Layla, 10, is the oldest child in the rabbit group. Typically two to four kids enter the category. None are showing feathered animals this time.

“I’ve been involved in 4-H my whole life,” said Buzzard. When she was very young she showed horses, then switched to hogs when she was old enough to show market animals.

Buzzard, who went to school in Brewster, said she moved from 4-H to the Future Farmers of American (FFA) program in high school and became an FFA leader.

She and Scott both lamented the lack of an FFA program at Liberty Bell High School, which would build on 4-H skills and expose rural kids to the numerous areas of study available within the field of agriculture.

There are nearly six million members in the national 4-H program, which is more than 100 years old, and another one million kids enrolled in independent programs in 50 other countries, according to the organization’s web site.

A committed coordinator

Suellen White, the coordinator of the Methow Valley Cascaders, got involved with 4-H when her own now-grown children were 5 and 7 years old and never quit.

“We’ve always had a farm and had animals and it’s a great organization for teaching kids things they use in everyday life,” she said.

Most towns in the county have a 4-H group, White said. Some are project-specific while others, like the local organization, have something for almost everybody, including kids as young as 5. There also is a separate local group focused on horses called the Wild Riders.

White, former superintendent of the Methow Valley School District, and her husband, Bill, moved to the valley in 1991 from Colville, where they had developed “a top-notch strain of pigs,” and helped the local fair organization “build a huge pig barn,” she said. When they moved to the Methow, their son, Tom, was a junior in high school and wanted to continue with pigs, but most local kids were raising steers at the time.

That changed after Tom and another kid took pigs to the Okanogan County Fair and won the Champion and Grand Champion titles. Hank Konrad bought their swine, and “the program has grown every year since,” White said.

She, and others, have high praise for the strong community support the Methow Valley Cascaders receive, from the committed leaders and parents who invest hours in 4-H to the financial support from those who buy the animals, especially Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp and the Evergreen IGA in Winthrop.


2017 Okanogan County Fair

The four-day Okanogan County Fair opens Sept. 7 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 10. Online registration for entries closes Sept. 4; registration in writing closes Sept. 1. The fairgrounds are at 175 Rodeo Trail between Okanogan and Omak just off Highway 97. For complete details visit www.okanogancounty.org/fair.