Sow the next generation of loyal cattle exhibitors at the Missouri State Fair. This is how the Missouri State Fair Foundation views its latest grant program, which provides first-time exhibitors with funds to offset costs associated with showing at the state fair.
“The mission of the Missouri State Fair Foundation is to cultivate the future of agriculture,” says Wendy Loges, executive director of the foundation. “Investing in young livestock exhibitors and providing them with more opportunities to exhibit is a great way to put our mission into action. Even if they don’t stay active in agriculture, they will always be a friend and advocate of agriculture.
Raise funds for grants
The Missouri State Fair Foundation First Time Exhibitor Grant is in its second year. The program began at the foundation’s “Cultivating Future” gala in August 2019.
At the event, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe shared his story as a first generation farmer and then launched the auction at $ 500. In less than five minutes, Loges says, donors pledged $ 11,500. Later, another donor added more money, and the grand opening total was $ 13,000.
That year, the foundation received 129 grant applications and awarded 26 grants to 32 exhibitors. Although there are some individual beneficiaries, Loges explains that families or siblings receive a grant to share.
Then COVID-19 hit. The 2020 Missouri State Fair hosted only a youth cattle show, so exhibitors were able to use the grants to attend. However, this created a problem. There was no gala in 2020 to fund the 2021 grants. But Loges says, “The coolest thing has happened.” The kids raised a lot of the money.
“We asked first-time exhibitors who were willing to do a peer-to-peer fundraiser on Facebook,” she explains. “We had people who saw their social media posts and called and asked to donate. Our young exhibitors raised $ 10,000. The Missouri State Fair Foundation then found a counterpart for the money raised by the young people. Several Missouri businesses and individuals have stepped up and pledged their support.
The 2020 Fund a Dream campaign saw the foundation award 46 grants to 54 youth to attend this year’s Missouri State Fair and exhibit cattle. “It was great to see the involvement of the children and the community,” adds Loges.
The next generation of Growing AG
To be eligible for the Missouri State Fair First Time Exhibitor Grant, youth must be enrolled in 4-H or FFA. There is no formula that reserves a certain amount of funds for one group rather than another. “We look at the person’s candidacy and their level of commitment to the project,” Loges explains. However, there is a caveat: young people must raise and display livestock.
“Attending the state fair with cattle is very expensive,” Loges says. “You usually have to camp and stay with your animals. It also takes some dedication from these exhibitors to care for an animal most of the year.
Grant funds vary. For kids exhibiting cattle, pigs, sheep or goats, it’s $ 500. For others showing chickens or rabbits, it’s $ 250.
Applicants must not have previously exhibited cattle in a 4-H or FFA class at the Missouri State Fair. Lodges says the foundation’s selection committee is looking at a mix of those new to 4-H or FFA, as well as children whose families have been dating for generations.
“It’s about rewarding people who have been participating in the state fair for a long time, while also cultivating these novice exhibitors,” she says.
“We know that children who exhibit livestock have developed excellent character traits, work ethic and leadership skills,” says Loges. “We want to invest and grow these kinds of children.”
Grants for first-time exhibitors at the Missouri State Fair not only caught the attention of young people, families and businesses across the state, but also those of the International Association of Fairs. and exhibitions.
The program was shortlisted for the jury’s 2020 Global Agricultural Prize.
To learn more about the Missouri State Fair First Time Exhibitor Grant, visit the website. To learn more about this year’s Fund the Dream Gala or to donate, visit one.bidpal.net.