4-H livestock sale about family, friends and futures, not just auctions

The Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair livestock auction can be an emotional time for 4-H youths and their families.

Some experience sadness as they come to grips with the departure of an animal they have raised since birth, or when they are selling their last animals as they age out of the program.


Others experience pride and satisfaction as their yearlong project comes to fruition in a sale, providing funds for the next stage in their lives.

With its ups and downs, and support along the way, it’s not unlike a family unit, according to 17-year-old Crystal Stowers, of Westminster. And in her case, it really is a family affair.

“I have been doing 4-H practically my entire life.,” she said. “My mom was 4-H — she’s actually one of the fair [veterinarians] here.”

Stowers has been raising animals, particularly black Angus steer, for 4-H since she was 5. Parting with her first animals was tough, but as her family was already breeding cattle, she knew what to expect.

“My mom taught me that it’s OK to know that your animals are going, but it’s also OK to be upset about [it],” she said. “It’s a project you’ve worked on almost all year; you build that connection and it’s hard to let go.”

On Friday evening, the night of the 2018 livestock sale, Stowers had a steer, a lamb and a goat up for auction, but she was more focused on answering questions and talking to other 4-Hers in the large barn at the Carroll County Agriculture Center.

“One of my most favorite things is to be able to help younger 4-Hers,” she said. “I love seeing younger kids succeed.”

Hannah Clas, of Sykesville, is a little younger than Stowers at 14. She has raised animals for 4-H for five years.

“I started out with a steer and a pig. Then the second year I did steer and lamb and pig. I’m back to steer and pig now,” she said. “I like pigs; they are easier to work with and they are more calm, gentle.”

Clas didn’t name her pig this year, but her steer?

“My steer’s name is White Chocolate,” she said. “He’s white and black, so.”

Names are OK, Clas said, just so long as “you don’t get too attached to it.”

“My first year was kind of hard, but then I learned not to get so attached. It’s kind of easy now.”

Down on the auction floor, 17-year-old Melanie Brown had just sold a pair of rabbits she had raised for $400.


“It’s good because I am off to college in about two weeks in South Carolina,” she said. “I am going to be doing marine science at Coastal Carolina University.”

Brown started in 4-H when she was 8 and has also raised chickens and cattle, though she likes raising rabbits.

“It’s kind of a family business,” said her grandfather, Kevin Brown. “I was doing it and then my kids did. Then she picked it up when she was little. It’s like three generations now.”

And yet the Browns don’t exactly consider themselves farmers.

“We just live in the woods. We don’t have any farm ground or anything,” Kevin Brown said. “We just have a building and we raise them.”

But then, you don’t need a farm to get a lot out of 4-H, according to Stowers.

“Even if you live in a townhouse, there are still projects [and] crafts you can enter to be active,” she said. “There are always people willing to give you a helping hand, let you lease animals, use their property. It’s a giant family, so everyone is with opens hands to help.”

Stowers plans to use the money she earns from auctioning her animals, along with scholarships she hopes to win during her upcoming senior year at Manchester Valley High School, to fund her college education and continue a 4-H and animal-raising tradition.

“I’ve always had a love for animals,” she said. “I want to be a large animal veterinarian when I get older, to follow in my mom’s footsteps.”