Finding a passion does not have an age limit. No matter if you’re ten or one hundred, it is always a good time to start doing something you love. Youth livestock shows at the North Carolina State Fair allow students to get passionate about something and learn in the process.
A junior at Uwharrie Charter Academy , Laura Jessup became interested in showing at the young age of five and has continued ever since. One great thing about North Carolina is the community that agriculture has formed.
“I joined 4-H when I was five,” Laura said. “Some of the other kids in my club showed at fairs and I watched them, and it made me want to show. I started with dairy cows and now here I am.”
Now, Laura shows goats, sheep and turkeys. Poultry is a different category than livestock, so there are some differences that she has had to face. While with things like goats you can pick your own animal to show, poultry competitions supply each competitor with turkeys.
“You’re all on the same playing field,” Laura’s mom, Maria, said. “Everyone gets three turkeys from the same place. It’s different because with turkeys, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend or where it comes from.”
When it comes to caring for the turkeys, however, it is like livestock in some ways. “Whenever we get the turkeys, they all come from the same farm. It’s cool to see how we would do something different from someone else,” Laura said. “We still have to keep them clean and wash them so when we get to the fair, they’re not dirty.”
Like many other young people who have involved in agriculture for a lot of their young life, Laura has learned many life lessons throughout her time showing at the N.C. State Fair.
“I’ve learned a lot about responsibility and having to pay attention,” Laura said. “You can tell when something is wrong with an animal. You have to pay attention to detail to take care of your animals.”
Showing is a year-long commitment for many families. Animals like sheep and goats are purchased at the beginning of the year, while turkeys for the State Fair usually come around the end of June.
This huge time commitment is worth it I the long run, and the evidence is in the rewards. Last year, Laura’s market turkey was sold for $7,000 and was awarded grand champion. Laura was also awarded grand champion showman in 2021, grand champion hare sheep in 2022 on top of many other achievements in her career.
Being on stage at the Junior Livestock Sale of Champions can be intimidating, but Laura tries to take it all in, saying “I just get so excited and you’re trying to take it all in. All these higher up people looking at the animal you raised is crazy.”
Laura’s fond memories of the fair don’t stop there. Sometimes, it’s the things outside of showing that create memories for a lifetime. Laura got to meet an North Carolina State University football player one year after her competition, and that moment has stuck with her.
When Laura won with her goat in 2021, she met player defensive end Joseph Daniel,” Maria said. “He was really interested, that was a fun little memory and really cool that night. It was fun seeing him and seeing him interested in her goat.”
Anywhere from turkeys to goats, finding a passion in agriculture is something that will impact you for a lifetime. Showing at the N.C. State Fair allows youth to learn and grow from their experiences. Check out competitions at this year’s Fair, and maybe you’ll see Laura Jessup with yet another grand champion animal!