Big bucks for young farmers at NC State Fair's Sale of Champions

sbarr@newsobserver.comOctober 19, 2013 

  • Today at the fair

    Hours: Gates, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Midway, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Exhibit halls, 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

    Tickets: Adults (13-64), $9; Children (6-12), $4; Military with ID, $5; Children 5 and younger and adults 65 and older, free.

    Dorton Arena concert: Florida Georgia Line, 7:30 p.m., SOLD OUT

    Forecast: Sunny, low 60s.

    Friday’s attendance: 72,794

— Joel Dahms, 16, spent months preparing his goat Willie to show at the North Carolina State Fair.

But it took just under two minutes for bidders to push the price tag for the 8-month-old goat to $6,000 during an auction Saturday.

“Sold,” cried auctioneer E. B. Harris as Dahms stood holding Willie tightly before a crowd of cheering bidders, family, friends and spectators.

Dahms, who lives in Bahama, hadn’t expected to win the grand champion title that put Willie in the Junior Livestock Sale of Champions, the annual auction for the top animals raised by young farmers.

“It was quite shocking and unbelievable,” he said.

Dahms raised Willie on his family’s farm, where the barn sits a few hundred yards from the house. He tinkered with Willie’s food intake until he had just the right formula, groomed his coat to tip-top shape, and took him on regular promenades around the property so the goat would know just what to do when he entered a show ring.

“The goats to me have a very distinct personality,” he said. “They’re very personable and friendly.”

At the auction, 11 young farmers took home nearly $98,000 in prize money for their steer, hogs, lambs, goats and turkeys – a reward that many dedicate to their college funds.

A group of young farmers will split another $45,500. They each contributed an animal to large collections that were auctioned as “truckload sales.”

All of the animals will end up in supermarkets and on dinner tables.

The auction is the culmination of months of hard work. Hunter McMillen, 7, of Grandy, spent two to three hours each day preparing for the fair by washing, walking and brushing his animals. His grand champion market barrow, a type of hog, brought in $11,000.

McMillen’s favorite part: the purple banner he got to hold in photos that proclaimed him a winner.

The bidders at the auction include representatives from Harris Teeter and the N.C. Farm Bureau, but independent bidders also can participate.

Thomas McInnis, of Iron Horse Auction Company, always comes to the auction as a bidder. This year he contributed to the truckload auction and also put up $4,100 for a reserve grand champion junior market meat goat.

McInnis said he participates because he wants to encourage young people to stick with farming.

“If nobody comes along to raise the animals and nurture the farm environment, where are we going to get our food?” he asked.

Abigail Wilson, 11, of China Grove raised the goat that McInnis bought and also had a lamb in the auction.

She said getting her animals ready on her family’s farm is a job that commands “a lot of tears and sweat,” but it’s worth the long hours she spends in the barn.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it as long as I can,” she said.

Barr: 919-836-4952

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