BEL AIR, MD – The ongoing coronavirus pandemic may have led to the cancellation of the annual Harford County Farm Fair, organizers knew how much the event – and specifically the livestock show and sale – means to the area’s young people.
So while the show won’t go on for the farm fair, youth who have invested their time and finances to preparing cows, pigs, goats and sheep over the past year, will still have the opportunity to make the most of their investment.
Event officials announced earlier this year that that the Harford County Livestock Show and Sale will take place at the county Equestrian Center in Bel Air between July 29-August 1. An in-person livestock judging will take place over three days before the sale will take place on Aug. 1. While the event won’t have any affiliation to either 4-H or to the county Farm Fair, the livestock show and sale is open to all presenters who are ages 8 to 18 as of Jan. 1.
“Without being able to pull off the sale, it would have a detrimental impact to them as especially, to future projects,” Mike Doran, the sale committee’s co-chair said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “We felt we had to have a sale somehow, some way – whether it was virtual or live.”
As organizers considered their options for the event, the idea of a livestock sale became less of an option without the show because pricing is so impacted by how animals place in judging. So officials came up with the concept of a closed show that will allow youth to safety exhibit their livestock projects before Saturday’s sale will be limited to buyers or potential buyers.
Doran said organizers are still attempting to set up a livestream of both events, but without there being established WiFi at the Equestrian Center, doing so could be difficult. Crowds will be limited to what animals are showing each day and those associated with each day’s show must leave after their showing is over. By limiting who shows up and when, organizers feel better prepared to accommodate for proper social distancing and safely allowing the show and sale to take place in-person.
“We just didn’t feel like a virtual or online sale would be perceived very well and sit well with our buyers,” Doran said. “…We thought if we could pull it off live and in person and as normal as it can be right now that this was best for the kids.”
Beef cattle will be shown on Wednesday, July 29, before goats and sheep will be shown on July 30 before pigs are shown on Friday, July 31. The abbreviated week will conclude with the livestock sale at 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 1.
Rather than attempting to postpone the event, Doran said that organizers were forced to keep the schedule the same because of processing agreements that have been in place. The pandemic has limited how much meat processors have been able to operate and many of them have been forced to push orders back until 2021. So without being able to get animals in for processing the first week of August, there would have been no guarantees of it happening in the foreseeable future, Doran said.
Doran said that participation numbers among exhibitors are on pace of those from previous years and that meat prices should not be impacted by the pandemic. Saturday’s sale will include the biggest crowds of the four days, but organizers believe they have a system in place that will allow the show and sale to be held safely.
If buyers do not feel comfortable physically coming out for the sale, they will be able to phone in bids, which Doran said will help reduce the number of people who are present at Saturday’s sale. Anybody wants to bid on an animal can contact Doran at (443) 506-8746 or HCYLSS@hotmail.com for assistance.
Farm Fair officials announced in May that the event, held each year in July, would be canceled due to ongoing coronavirus concerns. But as Doran and other committee members monitored how the pandemic was being dealt with across Maryland, they felt comfortable in moving ahead with the schedule they have devised.
Event organizers have benefitted from plenty of local support, which has helped to raise $15,000 with just a few Facebook posts, Doran said. Contributions have ranged from $35 to $7,500, which the Harford County Farm Bureau donated as the event’s top sponsor. The county farm bureau is also covering the event’s insurance, which Doran said has saved the committee thousands of dollars in insurance costs.
As long as conditions surrounding attempts to limit the spread of the pandemic remain the same for the next few weeks, organizers feel like they can offer an event that will meet guidelines while also allowing participants to benefit from all of their hard work.
“We don’t want to put anybody at risk,” Doran said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to control it, but we’re still hoping to have a good sale.”
This article originally appeared on the Bel Air Patch