Spencer Rodgers was a stand out in a field of excellence.
Among the many club members of both 4-H and the Future Farmers of America, Rodgers was a visible part of the hard work that went into the Healdsburg Future Farmers Country Fair.
Rodgers has been in 4-H for nine years, starting with guinea pigs and rabbits. He continues a family tradition that includes his grandfather, father and sister.
At this year’s fair, it was said more than once that he showed everything but an elephant, and would’ve shown that if he had one. That hard work paid off, both with awards for individual animals like his Grand Champion steer and breeding heifer and Supreme Showman for small animals.
The time leading up to the fair was “very chaotic,” according to Rodgers. One of the things he said people might not realize is that there is a lot of time spent with each animal back home.
“With my steer, I was out there every day for about an hour,” he said.
Rodgers said he got his pigs in December and steer in August.
At the fair, he brought his animals out for both showmanship and market judging. For showmanship, Rodgers said judges are mainly looking for how well an animal is handled, for market it’s more the build of the animal.
Rodgers is also on the Junior Fair Board, taking charge of the petting zoo. He said each member of the board had to chair or co-chair a part of the country fair.
“It definitely keeps you busy,” he said.
Watching Rodgers, it was clear he had a slew of things to accomplish any given hour. He would race back and forth, helping get animals ready for show, cleaning and participating in other members’ activities.
Beyond that, he was also a source of leadership for others getting ready for judging.
In one instance, he helped fellow 4-Hers memorize the hectic order of judging, having to switch animals quickly and in order. Spencer shared his mnemonic device to help keep on track and it became more a game to see who could memorize the list first.
Through it all, Rodgers’ and the other members’ attitudes stayed positive and respectful despite the long hours and hard work that was nearly at its end for the year.
Rodgers was disappointed with his pig showing, but there will always be next year.
“It was entirely my fault. I didn’t work with them at all this year, because I didn’t think that they were going to make weight until the last week and then they were like, ‘Oh, I’m hungry,’” he said.
This is Rodgers main fair for the year. He said he sometimes shows his pygmy goats in Cloverdale, but that’s about it.
Being in front of the crowd and judge can be nerve-wracking, he said. While showing a cow, for instance, it is common to use a show stick to scratch the chest of the animal. With a racing heart, that scratching can become a bit frantic.
The animals can tell their handlers are nervous, Rodgers said, and that applies to when they are raised, too.
“Last year, my steer kicked me. That was the first time I had been kicked by a cow, and after that, any time he saw me he would try to kick me. I got kicked seven times. This year, when it was time, I was like, ‘If he kicks me, he kicks me. I’ve been kicked before,” he said.
With that cool attitude in place, he said he was only kicked one other time.
“He’s just been like, ‘You’re the boss of me,’ to where last year he was like, ‘I’m the boss of you.’”
Rodgers said the kicks weren’t too bad, just leaving bruises.
For those who might have nerves in the show ring, Rodgers’ advice is to not give up, even at the very end.
“I’ve been with goats where I’m in dead last and right as they’re about to hand out the awards, the first-place man will accidently let go of their goat and you’ll get moved up,” he said.
Though there were many literally involved in getting all the livestock to the field, thanks to the hard work from Rodgers and the rest of FFA and 4-H members, this year’s fair went off without a hitch.