SIOUX CENTER—Every family has something they enjoy doing together, and for the Englins, that thing is the Sioux County Youth Fair scheduled for July 16-22.
Husband and wife Garret and LeAnn Englin grew up on their parents’ farms and were raised in 4-H.
Garret grew up on a Minnesota grain farm with a cattle feedlot and some hog finishing units, as well as a cow and calf herd. He joined 4-H in the fourth grade, and throughout the years, he mostly worked on beef projects, along with lambs and hogs.
Both of his siblings showed animals for 4-H, too.
“So, I’ve been doing it for something like 30 years, being involved in 4-H,” Garret said.
After he graduated from South Dakota State University in 2002, he started looking for jobs. The job he found was as a feed department beef specialist for Farmers Cooperative Society in Sioux Center.
When he moved to Sioux Center, Garret quickly got involved with a local 4-H program. He picked up the role of superintendent for beef projects.
LeAnn’s family has always been steeped in 4-H and fairs, going back a few generations.
She grew up on a farm with a farrowing to wean hog operation, a commercial cow and calf herd, along with horses, rabbits, chickens and other assorted animals.
She got her start in 4-H when she was 7 years old. The Dixon, NE, native said that long as you were 8 by the date of the fair, you could participate, so she was able to start her first show year when she was 7.
Growing up, LeAnn showed pretty much everything there could be to show: dairy, beef, sheep, hogs, chickens, rabbits, ducks and horses.
“My dad has been a club leader for more than 50 years, and he’s in two different counties,” LeAnn said. “I started my kids young. Then we moved in this area and we became club leaders.”
Nineteen-year-old Jenna Belt’s 4-H experience began in Nebraska, too. She started showing in Nebraska for two years before moving to Sioux Center with her mother.
She has shown cattle, sheep, pigs and horses.
Jenna said she’s always been involved in 4-H, so it’s been an important part of her life. But then it went from just being something she participated in to something where she could help and lead others, too, in new roles with more responsibility.
“I just felt like I could take a step up. It started when mom and Garret became leaders,” Jenna said. “Then I started helping run our meetings and things like that. 4-H is about members stepping up and taking a role, so it kind of started with them stepping up as leaders, and then I stepped up running meetings.”
Then she was asked to be on Sioux County Youth Council and became an officer. She serves as the secretary for the youth council and on the 4-H Rules and Regulations Committee.
Being a leader brings a different perspective to the fair than being a participant, but Jenna enjoys mentoring new members and seeing children’s hard work on display at the fair.
Garret and LeAnn agreed, not only enjoying the growth they see in the kids, but their families, too.
“You see some families that start out with no real show experience or parents who weren’t involved,” Garret said. “But the kids enjoy the project and the parents are very supportive and you get to see from when they start with, say, a bottle calf or a feeder lamb project and see how they grow and mature and how their project and their knowledge progresses the whole time they’re involved.”
That’s an important role 4-H has in a society that’s increasingly isolated from agriculture, he added.
“Sometimes I think it gets lost in our community how important (agriculture) is,” Garret said. “Even though the fair might not be as important to some people, it is very important to a lot of individuals, and hopefully they’ll get jobs in or be advocates for agriculture in the future.”
As he put it, we wouldn’t have the community we have without our culture of agriculture here. It drives the economy here in a way that isn’t seen in other counties.
“The fair needs to be promoted as a showcase for why Sioux Center or Orange City or Rock Valley has everything it has, and it’s because of ag, and we want to focus on the kids who want to be involved in it,” Garret said.
In that way, 4-H is the first step in that path, to starting a career in agriculture.
It’s also a good way to teach children dedication to a long-term project and to handle the responsibility that comes with it.
“I think that’s something this community has forgotten with the fair and how it’s being looked at in the community,” Garret said. “It is important, and on more levels than a lot of people think it is because of the involvement it has.”
And beyond gaining agricultural knowledge, there’s also the friendships gained that can’t be overlooked. It’s an underrated part of being in 4-H and going to fairs, Jenna said, who’s made friends with people who live hours away through these events.
The Englins’ love for showing animals means that they’re not just busy in July when the Sioux County Youth Fair is on, but all year around.
It means buying cattle the previous fall and hogs or lambs somewhere around March or April and raising them up so they’re ready for showing in the summer. As the time for the fair approaches, careful monitoring and maintaining livestock weights is crucial.
“A lot of people just think the fair is those five days in July,” Garret said. “For our family, the 360 days before the fair is what it is for our kids because they’re always doing something. When the fair is over, we still have other shows to go to so they continue working with these animals.”
They show at open shows throughout the year.
“We’ll show at Clay County, we’ll show at State Fair, we’ll show at regional shows,” LeAnn said. “Most of our weekends are in the show ring with one species or another. We don’t have many vacant weekends.”
They wouldn’t have it any other way, however.
“It’s still a family activity,” Garret said. “You’re doing stuff with your kids. That’s probably the best part about it.”
They’re at the fair every morning between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. and Garret and LeAnn might not leave until 10 p.m. or midnight.
Twelve-year-old Carli Siebrandt has participated in 4-H and the fair for a number of years now, and she’s been at fairs for even longer thanks to her older sister’s activities.
She practically grew up in the fairgrounds.
“She probably knew every centimeter of the fairgrounds,” LeAnn said. “That girl knew everybody and everything that was happening at every fair where her older sister was showing. Since she’s been old enough to show, I always wondered if she was ever paying attention, but she obviously was because she’s been successful. She enjoys it, she’s competitive, she has fun, but she has a lot of friends, and that’s part of it.”
Carli has shown horses, cattle, sheep and hogs, and this year, she’s doing a static exhibit as well.
At 6 years old, Kayle isn’t old enough for 4-H, but he is getting a head start in showing animals in open shows. He has also made the most of his time at the Sioux County fairgrounds, running around with friends there.