When the Washington County Agricultural Fair Board announced the cancellation of the 2020 Fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the local community people were disappointed; however, the board approved a resolution to preserve the Junior Livestock Market Competition.
The Fair Board also approved the formation of the Junior Livestock Market Board Committee that immediately began to work on a plan to conduct the Livestock Market Competition on August 20 – 22, 2020.
“It was decided to hold the show and auction to showcase what the market animal exhibitors have worked on this past year,” said Wayne Hunnell, Washington County Agricultural Fair board member. “Also, it will help provide a venue to help them sell their animals.”
The auction will work very similar to the way it has in the past — but it will now follow all CDC and Pennsylvania State health guidelines, as well as follow social distancing restrictions.
One major change happening with the live auction process is “resale animals.” Previously, buyers could donate the animal they purchased back for resale and the proceeds from the resale could be designated to the scholarship fund or other charitable organization. This year, in order to shorten the sale process, the buyer can still donate their purchase back for resale; however, the proceeds from the resale will benefit the Washington County Agricultural Fair. In addition, the resale will not take place the same day — all resale animals will be sent to the Eighty Four Auction Barn to be sold the Monday following the live auction.
“For this show and sale, it has caused us to really think about how the events are handled while trying to ensure that we follow all CDC guidelines,” said Todd Richards, Washington County Agricultural Fair board president. “It is a learning experience, and understanding if any of the practices being put in place need to be utilized in future events.”
Agriculture plays a huge role in the economy of Southwstern Pennsylvania — but, even more specifically, Washington County. The industry has stood the test of time, and has continued to serve as an economic leader in the local community.
Washington County, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, is ranked first in the number of sheep and lambs in the county, first in the amount of wool sold and first in the number of beef cattle and beef farms. In addition, Washington County is ranked fourth overall in Pennsylvania with 1,760 total farms.
The Washington County Agricultural Fair, as well as the industry overall, has faced a lot of adversity over the past 222 years. From world wars and the spanish flu, to livestock specific pandemics, the agricultural industry has been tenacious in continuing to work to support their communities.
“In the past several years, we have had pandemics like the avian flu. We could not have poultry at the fair including eggs,” said Hunnell. “More recently, swine african fever caused breeding hogs to not be able to be at the fair at the same time as market hogs. This resulted in all market hogs shown as a terminal event.”
One thing is for certain — despite the challenges that the ever changing world causes — the agricultural and the Washington County Agricultural Fair is set to remain as local leader for 222 more years.
“All of these previous events had extreme impacts on the agriculture industry as millions of poultry and hogs had to be euthanized incurring significant losses,” said Hunnell. “However, during our lifetime, there has not been anything quite like COVID19, where the people were being affected and causing the cancellation of the fair. We promise to continue to work to ensure the success of our fair, as well as our industry.”
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