Guest column: Partnerships between 4-H, Clallam County Fair, PNW Junior Livestock Auction

Hooray, it’s finally fair season! The Clallam County Fair will run Aug. 18-21. The most recent Clallam fair was in 2019, and we are ready to get back out there. It may be a bit smaller than years past because it’s rebuilding, but it’s happening! Let’s dig into the relationship between 4-H and county fairs:

About 4-H

First a quick reminder, 4-H is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program delivered by Cooperative Extension — a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation.

Our Clallam 4-H program is headquartered at the Clallam County Court House in Port Angeles, in a shared office with all the other Clallam WSU Extension programs. You can find local 4-H leaders Melanie Greer and Dan McCarty there when they are not out in the field or at the fairgrounds!

Founded 120 years ago, 4-H was created to support positive youth development while teaching the latest in agriculture and homesteading techniques to youth and families across the country. While 4-H has expanded beyond agriculture and homesteading, traditional project areas continue to be foundational.

The 4-H program year runs from Oct. 1-Sept. 30, in large part because the Washington State Fair is in September. Youths in 4-H clubs with projects in animal science, home arts such as canning and sewing, and others, spend much of the year learning and preparing for their project area.

Youth programs often include an element of showcasing the youth’s personal growth and learning; this can even include sports, demonstrated oftentimes through team games.

Many traditional 4-H projects showcase at their local county fair. Whether it is a pie that is baked or a steer that gets auctioned, youth are showing the whole community what they have achieved that year in 4-H. (Please note: 4-H youths are not competing against each other, but against the standard for that product. What this means is that 4-H projects are judged on how successful they are at showing what a consumer would expect from that product, not whose is prettiest or fastest.)

Then, if a 4-H’er does well at their county fair, they get the opportunity to take that project to the state fair in Puyallup.

Junior Livestock Auction

Now to explain the important role the Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction (PNWJLA) has regarding our County Fair.

Youths in 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) who raise a meat animal can sell that animal into the food system at the Clallam County Fair at the Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction (PNWJLA), held at noon on Saturday, Aug. 20.

This is an important learning opportunity for youth who are considering careers in animal husbandry. They have learned about raising the animal through 4-H, and the PNWJLA helps youngsters take that animal to market to sell.

Community members can purchase one of these animals, one that has been raised humanely, at the auction, held in the swine arena. Learn how to participate in an auction at the PNWJLA’s website (

The PNWJLA educates and ensures that youths have animals ready and safe to enter the food system through quality assurance classes that meet the industry standard. This quality assurance is the youth version of the equivalent qualification adults must go through to sell a food animal into a USDA facility.

In this process, the youngsters learn to raise and market their product to bring in buyers. Most youths take the money and use it to purchase their next animal and often save the rest to put towards college funds, ultimately it is up to their discretion. This is a basically a master class in career readiness for our future food producers.

Fair synergy

The 4-H organization and county fairs have a synergistic relationship, as the goal of the county fair is to showcase what makes that county unique and the 4-H youth bring just that to present. When 4-H’ers show up to the Clallam County Fair they help the fair meet their goals as set by the Washington State Fairs Association (WSFA), and the fair gives 4-H a public place to showcase 4-H’ers hard work. Both groups benefit from this close partnership.

We are very proud that the Clallam County Fair is one of the top five County Fairs in the state of Washington as was chosen by the WSFA in 2019. This designation was earned through the work of Clallam County Department of Parks, Fair, and Facilities by maintaining a well-kept and well-managed fairground, plus the commitment of the Clallam County Fair Board. The exceptional management of the fairgrounds has helped increase the opportunities for the Clallam 4-H’ers to learn and grow. The WSU Clallam Extension office is grateful for this fantastic working relationship, as are the youth that use the facility. Check out this years schedule at

Though 4-H will have a smaller-than-normal showing at the fair this year, we invite the community to come cheer them on. They are so glad to be back and rebuilding for the future.

You can help us build back up to our previous numbers, we are looking for volunteers. Specifically, we need leaders to teach our home arts type projects such as sewing, crocheting, cooking, food preservation, photography, art and any other non-animal activity you can think of, you don’t have to be an expert! Just open to learning and sharing with youth.

To become a volunteer, call Melanie Greer at 360-417-2398.

Lisa Bridge is a communications department staffer with the WSU Extension Office — Clallam County.