As the local food movement continues to grow in New Hampshire, so does the market potential for locally raised meat. However, growing livestock markets successfully and sustainably requires more young farmers. 4-H livestock auction participants are working hard to gain the experience necessary to become the future farmers of New Hampshire. 4-H’ers raise beef, swine, goat and lamb and then show and sell them by live weight at an annual auction held at Hopkinton State Fair in September.
The dizzying tempo of the auctioneer’s call and competition for the winning bid on a locally raised animal makes for an exciting day for buyers, spectators and 4-H’ers. Auction day is all about action, but the work starts much earlier in the year for participants. 4-H’ers invest a significant amount of time and money into raising a healthy market animal, maintaining accurate records and recruiting buyers for the final sale.
These young farmers are expected to complete the same necessary tasks that a full-scale farm would to produce a quality product and turn a profit—a goal that any farmer will tell you requires a highly specialized skillset.
“You’re dealing with money, you’re dealing with expenditures and profits, the animal itself and their health and anatomy,” explains Hayden Gardner, an eighth-year 4-H’er. Gardner raises swine and goats and serves on the auction’s planning committee, which is comprises both youth participants and adult volunteers.
“The New Hampshire Livestock Auction allows the opportunity for our youth, our potential young farmers, to get a taste of what this future could look like for them,” says Elaina Enzien, field specialist in livestock, dairy and forage with UNH Extension’s food and agriculture team. “4-H’ers can play an important role in seeing the vision of a strong local food system become the reality of New Hampshire’s future.”
Michelle Bersaw-Robblee, 4-H field specialist and livestock auction coordinator, emphasizes: “The project is more than just youth raising animals to sell. The business and marketing skills that participants gain are incredible. The opportunity to work with a deeply caring group of adult volunteers who truly value the energy and ideas that youth bring to the planning process is a fulfilling experience.”
The auction connects youth interested in animal husbandry with mentors, Extension specialists and the business sector to create a hands-on learning experience. It also links conscientious consumers to an opportunity they can feel doubly good about—supporting the local food movement and the future of sustainable farming in New Hampshire.
Meet the Participants
Lauren Gardner - age 14 | Loudon, NH
“It changes a lot of kids’ perspectives. Kids might take meat for granted. They might not know how much work goes into raising an animal. Raising an animal changes how you look at the meat you buy.”
Logan Courtright - age 11 | Lee, NH
“Getting my pigs up to weight was a challenge—managing their diet and making sure they were heavy enough. They weren’t gaining enough so we switched their diet. We weigh them at intervals and track it so we can make changes if we have to. Last year was my first year raising meat goats. It was really good.”
Hayden Gardner - age 15 | Loudon, NH
“I was on a committee in the first year. Normally, as a participant, you see what goes on in the front of the auction, but I got to be behind the scenes and see all of the resources and planning that go into putting everything together. It’s like a whole other world.”