As I spoke to the crowd at the Burke County Fair, one could not help but notice the large 4-H banner hanging as a backdrop to the self-made alter. It was symbolic of the message, for which 4-H was the centerpiece of a podium adorned with a hand carved cross and a bouquet of owers from the funeral of Larry Swensen, a board member of the Burke County Fair.

Mr. Swenson was a strong advocate of 4-H, the fair, and the state of North Dakota. His untimely death leaves a big void in the community for which he served his entire life. His legacy will be honored by 4-H and the fair by a proposed permanent commemorative, yet to be announced. A replica of the handcrafted diamond willow cross, a tree that is native to the Burke County Fairgrounds., is available upon request.

OBSERVATION: While at the fair, I took the time to observe some of the livestock judging, and couldn’t believe that I was seeing animals as good as any I’ve judged at any county fair in the country. Though the fair has declined in stature since I was a kid, the quality of the livestock has improved exponentially over the years, thanks to the influence of 4-H.

The entire fair board is to be commended for putting on a fair that exceeded all expectations, and marks a new beginning for a fair that has been in a declining mode for several years.

The fair board members are all new since my involvement some fty years ago. And with the passing of Mr. Swenson and Mr. Nielsen there will be ever-new faces to carry the fair forward. (Look for people with a positive vision of bigger and better things to come.)

Mr. Nielson joined the board in 1956, the year I graduated from both 4-H and high school, but would like to have shared his passion for the fair. Mr. Swenson’s time on the board was cut far too short, but it seems that Steve Pederson is picking up the slack, moving the fair forward at an enthusiastic pace.

Just as 4-H is the centerpiece of the Burke County Fair, so it is with most counties across the country; thus it is of utmost importance that we continue to nancially support 4-H. As less and less money is being federally appropriated toward 4-H, it should be our objective to not only raise enough money to keep our 4-H programs alive and well, but to philosophically and politically up-grade 4-H to a higher level of credibility. From the County to the National scene there has to be a newfound recognition of the importance of 4-H.

Both Congress and County Supervisors have to recognize that 4-H is about building character and leadership. The purpose of the projects is to teach skills, but understanding the value of relationships and how to maintain them is far more important that that of nishing a steer or baking a cake. Would this country be in the nancial mess that it’s in if our current leaders were as astute as our founding fathers? The government, way back in the late 1800’s, saw t to create 4-H, realizing that this country would be built on the backs of its youth. The only thing that has changed in all those years is our deviation from our roots. Greed and a self-serving bureaucracy that can’t see beyond ‘me first’ have watered down those solid Christian values.

Giving bailouts to failed a company that, in turn, reward incompetency with multi-million dollar bonuses, is like giving trophies and purple ribbons to he/she who stands at the bottom of the class. How can we justify such nancial waste while at the same time say there isn’t enough money to support 4-H?

Rewarding failure, while penalizing success makes little or no sense to me! What kind of a role model have we become for our kids? The younger generation is going to have to pay for our mistakes, but let’s not compound the situation by removing the one model in our life that has stood the test of time and produced a platform of stability and leadership. 4-H is the one constant from which many of us draw strength and measure competitive standards in life.

The standard bearer of 4-H is that of teaching kids to be good stewards of their life and the lives of those they affect. Life isn’t just about doing for you; it is equally that of doing for others. The more you give, the more you get back in return!

4-H instills these values in a way that leaves a lifetime impression. Do we really want to see our kids cheated out of this, one of life ’s nest opportunities, to develop character and responsibility?

When you cheat, you cheat those closest and most dependent upon you. Is there anyone closer to you than your kids? Can the cheaters in Washington really do this with good conscious? Are their priorities so eroded that they no longer recognize those principles that made this country great?

4-H is more than a match for this crazy world. 4-H not only has what it takes to excel at most anything, but to adapt when change comes along. 4-H has an adventurous spirit and a sense of assurance that comes from having overcome challenges before. However, are we up to this challenge or do we stand back with our hands in our pocket?

4-H has taught the skills to self-sustain and overcome the obstacle that life throws our way. It has shown us strength in the weakest of times and a determination that is unmatched. Isn’t this what dreams are made of? Isn’t this why we should step up to the plate and ght for what’s right?

Our current economic disaster represents such a contradiction of values. Food and shelter are in such desperate peril; putting businesses, families, and relationships at risk. Contrast this with kids playing sports for multi-million dollar salaries. Is this the message we want to send our kids?

Talent, persistence, and ability enter the equation of success for any kid, be it that of sports or a lifetime achievement of 4-H. Both 4-H and sports have carved a niche in the lives of our kids. Both play an important role in the development of their future. But to disproportionately support one at the expense of the other seems a little disingenuous.

Over-achievers will always be compensated; monetarily or honorably, but may the playing eld be made equal. It is an honor to win a championship; an honor that can’t be taken away with any amount of money, so put the weight of your support in the arena of greatest value — just as these gentlemen have!

Cousin Larry — you’re loved and will be missed by all who came to know you!

Board member Ervin Nielson ­— your legacy was respectively honored!

Board member Steve Pederson — your efforts were well rewarded!


read also: My Personal 4-H Achiement

PONY TALES by PONTY: more insightful stories written by Ken Knight

Ken E. Knight is the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in this publication on a regular basis. Mr. Knight is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a major BS Degree in Meat and Animal Science and a minor in Communications. In addition to being a professional auctioneer, public speaker and livestock judge, he brings many years of corporate level meat and livestock market management and expertise to the industry for which he now serves as an independent voice of shared knowledge and experience.


For more in-depth information regarding the topics that have been touched upon in this report, Knightro conducts livestock marketing seminars on a regular basis. To schedule a seminar, auction, judging, or speaking engagement, please contact Ken Knight, Knightro, W11911 County Road FF,  River  Falls,  WI 54022,  phone  toll free 1-877-KNIGTRO, phone 715-262-8480,  fax 715-262-8480, e-mail [email protected]t; or contact the Midwest Farm & Livestock Directory at [email protected].