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Virtual Competition Showcases Maryland’s Youth

Last year when the onset of COVID-19 caused in-person events to cancel, many organizations scurried to help bring some normalcy to youth programs, like 4-H and National FFA Organization, by holding virtual events.

“During the summer of 2020, it was really disappointing to see so many fairs canceled due to the limitations of the pandemic and our area youth were left with a lot of uncertainty,” says Johanna Rohrer, outreach and educational program specialist for MidAtlantic Farm Credit, an agricultural lending cooperative owned by its member-borrowers. “Hosting a Virtual Showcase Competition seemed like a great outreach idea to support our area youth with something fun and rewarding.”

Now in its second year, MidAtlantic Farm Credit’s Virtual Showcase Competition is going strong with over 110 total entrants from the mid-Atlantic region. The organization continued to host this competition in 2021 as a way to further support area youth and provide them an opportunity to compete together, while sharing their summer fair project story. “From equine and dairy, to rabbits and traditional livestock projects, we wanted to provide an opportunity for the youth to share the lessons they have learned,” Johanna says.

For this year’s competition, entrants ages 8 to 18 from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia (MidAtlantic Farm Credit’s territory) were asked to submit either an essay or video answering these two questions: What is one new skill you learned this summer with your fair project? How can this experience positively influence your future?

Top winners from Maryland include essay award winner champion Elizabeth Green from New Windsor and video award winner reserve champion Emily Fritz from Westminster.

Elizabeth recounts the ups and downs of her year raising pigs for 4H in her essay, From Failure to the Fair. “Although things didn’t turn out quite as we hoped, I learned many lessons raising my 4H pigs that will positively influence my future. I learned that I’m able to use veterinary techniques and think outside of the box regarding their health. In addition, this experience has solidified my plans of studying animal science in college, specifically focusing on how genetics can improve an animal’s health. Most importantly, I learned that when you’re raising animals sometimes you learn more from your failures than you do your successes,” Elizabeth says in her essay.

Emily shares her experience showing a steer in the 2021 Carroll County 4H Fair, and provides a look forward to preparing for next year’s fair. “I have a goal when I’m older. I’d like to have my own cattle farm and have cows, and maybe some pigs, and just work like I do now but in a bigger scale. I’m going to take everything I know from 4-H and the learning experiences that I have and apply it to when I have my own farm,” says Emily in her video.

Winners were awarded with a rosette ribbon, prize money and a prize pack to recognize their accomplishments.

“Our 4-H and FFA youth have been so resilient over the past two years and it was rewarding for our judging committees to evaluate the entries. The lessons learned and stories shared were inspiring,” Johanna says. “We were grateful our community members embraced this outreach effort and for all the youth participants who chose to submit their story.”

Hungry for more? Visit MAFC to see all of the results and to check out the winning entries. Learn more about real-world experiences in 4-H. Read how this farm adjusted during the pandemic. See the Maryland Farm Bureau’s new ambassador program for another youth opportunity.

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