Where’s the beef? In Franklin County 4-H.
Come Saturday, the 21 members of the Franklin County 4-H Baby Beef Club, many of whom are from the Greencastle-Antrim area, will say good-bye to the animals they raised for the past year. The Annual Roundup and Sale at Greencastle Livestock Market is the pinacle event the youth have worked towards. The once-400 pound calves will weigh in around 1200 pounds and get a final primping to look good for the auctioneer and buyers. After the last gavel bang, the kids will go home alone.
Club leader Duane Hawbaker knows the routine. "They'll give them a pat on the rump or a kiss. That's it for the kids."
Monday morning most of the beef will be at the butcher shop. Such is life in a farming community.
Hawbaker, 66, is in his 18th year guiding children ages 8 to 18 in a program predicated on teaching dedication, responsibility and commitment. The Welsh Run resident and Debbie Stahl, Mercersburg, direct the 4-H club with assistance from their spouses, Jo and Kevin, respectively.
"We want them to become successful and good citizens," Hawbaker said of his group. Raising steers is a time-consuming and expensive project, he continued, and required supervision from parents.
A typical day for a club member could begin at 5:30 a.m. with chores, and through the days and months the child was required to feed, clean, train and learn to lead with a halter. It wasn't necessarily easy to prepare the steers for showing.
"Some are pretty wild when they start. You won't believe how calm they get."
Hawbaker got involved when his own five children were young, and just hasn't found a good reason to stop. He rattled off the yearly schedule for the monthly meetings: January, reorganization; February, state-mandated quality assurance program with county extension educator Karen Haack; March, Fun Night; April, weigh-in at the Market for beginning weight; May, fitting and showing demonstration; June, family picnic; July, Shippensburg Fair; August, Franklin County Fair; September, Roundup and Sale; October, barn party; November, banquet and awards; December, no meeting.
Hawbaker knows Saturday will again be exciting for the kids. They get to keep the money from the buyer, usually a business. The event has taken place since at least 1949. Someone gave him a photo from that year, with 50 members of the 4-H club posed at the livestock market.
"I cherish that picture," he said.
And he's good to go for another year.