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No livestock show a letdown for local kids

Story by Alexa Massey

The cancellation of this year’s Five County Fair caused dismay to yearly fairgoers, but it was also a disappointment to the numerous young boys and girls who show livestock at the fair and find friendship and fun in the annual event.

Grace Moss, 17, of Buckingham, is a senior at Buckingham County High School. Her family owns C.H. Morris and Sons farm located on the Appomattox River.

At the farm, Moss and her family raise registered polled Gelbvieh and Gelbvieh Balancer cattle, along with chickens, ducks, a few litters of pet rabbits and maybe a cat or two.

Moss has always loved working with larger animals and joined the Buckingham 4-H Livestock Club in the fifth grade. She’s also been a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) since her freshman year of high school.

Moss shows beef cattle at the fair and always chooses an animal from the farm. The rule around the house is whatever profit is made from the cows she shows and any offspring goes directly into her college savings account.

This year would have been Moss’ fifth year showing at the fair, and she’s won many awards over her long history of showing beef cattle. In fact, every year at the fair, Moss has won the Grand Champion title for registered Gelbvieh, and each year she’s either won or tied with another competitor in showmanship.

This would have been Moss’ third year showing off the same cow, and this time she was hoping to return to show off that cow and her steer as a cow/calf pair.

The news of the cancellation was a big disappointment. Moss stopped working with the calf, let the two animals out to pasture, and now plans to sell them both in the future.

Moss said she could show at the fair again next year, but she may not have time to do so with college just around the corner. But a love of animals will stay with her throughout life. She hopes to major in animal science and perhaps become a large animal veterinarian.

Kelly Womack, 11, of Cumberland, is currently in the sixth grade at Cumberland County Middle School.

For Womack, bonding with animals is second nature. Her parents each own farms in the county, and Womack can often be found helping out around the farm, spending her time among bulls, chickens, dairy cows, calves, dogs and more.

A 4-H member, Womack has livestock showing in her blood.

“My family has done it for years,” she said.

When it comes to showing at the Five County Fair, Womack has been known to show cows and heifers. Prepping for a show takes a lot of work. Animals must be trained, kept clean, trimmed and fed special grains and hay.

Although Womack hadn’t decided whether to show a cow or heifer at this year’s fair, she had her fingers crossed the event would not have to be canceled. For her, the fair isn’t just a chance to show off all of her efforts working with the animals. The fair and the livestock show are also a place where she gets to spend time with friends.

Outside of showing livestock, Womack has often got her hands full with helping out on the farm and playing softball.

Hannah Geesaman, 16, of Charlotte County, is an 11th grader at Randolph-Henry High School. Her family owns J-Mar Farms, where they raise sheep, goats, cattle and chickens.

Geesaman is a member of both 4-H and FFA, and she started showing at the fair at just 5 years of age, normally showing Suffolk Hampshire cross sheep and angus cattle.

Geesaman works with her animals practically all year long. Her hard work and dedication are reflected in her success. She has won a variety of awards in the past, including several grand champion titles.

Geesaman said she started to worry the fair might be canceled after witnessing other livestock shows in the area fall victim to the pandemic, although she was holding out hope of being able to show her latest steer at the Five County Fair.

“Things did not pan out the way I was hoping,” she commented.

Like many, Geesaman was disappointed at the news of the fair’s cancellation, but it won’t mean an end to her showmanship career. She spent the summer showing sheep at the Sheep Showmasters circuit, and was even able to show animals virtually at the Piedmont Jr. Livestock Show.

Mason Hamlett, 14, of Charlotte, is a ninth grader at Randolph-Henry High School. He lives with his family on Angus Crest Farm.

To say Hamlett likes to keep himself busy would be an understatement. He’s vice president of The Charlotte County 4-H Livestock Club and serves as the 2020-21 president of the Central Middle School FFA.

Hamlett not only shows Black Angus cows through 4-H but has also competed in crop judging and ag mechanics with the FFA for several years.

For Hamlett, the cancellation of the fair joins a growing list of activities and events that have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. In the past, he’s participated in the Family Farm Program at Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, where he and his family take a show cow and interact with kids who don’t always have the opportunity to be around livestock, answering questions and educating visitors about the necessity of proper animal care as beef producers.

Hamlett said he doesn’t think the event will happen this year due to the pandemic and added this year’s Kindergarten FFA Day, an educational event held each year at the school’s Land Lab, was canceled as well.

The FFA also wasn’t able to go to the elementary schools in Charlotte to read to children during the FFA Literacy Week this past school year, but Hamlett was able, with the help of his parents, to make a video of himself reading, featuring his heifer, Florence. He said the video, posted to the chapter’s Facebook, was a hit with local kids.

Hamlett loves his “girls” and has nine cows and heifer calves of his own. His parents and grandparents helped him start his own herd, which he’s been continuously building since he was 8, the same age he participated in his first-ever livestock show at the Five County Fair in Farmville.

Hamlett said each of his show cows have unique personalities, with appropriately lovely names to match, including Daisy, Buttercup, Lily, Sweet Pea, Florence and Rose. He’s also got four heifer calves only a few months old.

While the fair being canceled was a letdown, Hamlett has also kept himself busy and participated virtually this past April in the Piedmont Jr. Livestock Show, although it was a bit odd to not have to load up his cow and drive to the show.

“There is just a feeling on show day you can’t get in your own corral or your pasture,” he said.

Despite the unfortunate news of the cancellation, each student was in good spirits. For them, however, the fair is more than just a chance to get an award. It’s a place to show off hard work, to meet friends and share a love and a passion for animals.

That being said, all were hopeful the fair will return next year, and there’s plenty of work to be done around the farm while they wait.