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Beltrami County Fair: 4-H family takes pride in mixed herd

The Fasts are a 4-H family who have been active with the Beltrami County Fair for many years. Standing, from left, Shelby, 11th grade; Cody, seventh grade; their father, Barton; and Amber, 10th grade. Kneeling, from left, are Ashley, fifth grade; John, fifth grade; and Jared, sixth grade. The policy of 4-H is to identify the members by grade in school rather than ages. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

Cows of color - the children in the Fast Dairy Farm family will show a variety of breeds during the 2010 Beltrami County Fair this week.

Like most area dairy farms, the Fasts milk Holsteins, which are usually black and white. But the Fasts also raise chestnut-colored Brown Swiss, golden Guernseys and red-and-white Ayrshires.

Members of the Deer Lake Flyers 4-H Club, the Fast children - Shelby, 11th grade, Amber, 10th grade, Cody, seventh grade, Jared, sixth grade, Ashley, fifth grade, and John, fifth grade - help with milking in the tie-stall barn and do regular farm chores. They will show calves, heifers and cows of both dairy and beef breeds.

The policy of 4-H is to identify members by grade in school rather than by their ages.

Amber led out a 10-year-old Holstein cow named Tanya.

"Amber's been showing her at the fair since (Tanya) was a baby," said Ann Marie Ward, Beltrami County 4-H coordinator.

The other children said they start working with the animals they plan to show when they are little calves.

Shelby is the Beltrami County dairy princess, and she, Amber and Cody have shown cattle at the Minnesota State Fair.

When a 4-H exhibitor shows an animal the club member and animal are registered together for the animal's entire show life. Ward said exhibitors must remember their animals' names, IDs and other statistics.

"After they show that animal, it's assigned to them for the life of the animal or the career of the 4-Her," Ward said. "They need to be IDed before their first freshinging."

The children take part in Knowledge Bowl, Building Leadership and Understanding and exhibit static entries at the fair, such as woodcrafts and fine arts.

Ashley said they usually start milking at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and require about an hour to take care of about 50 cows. They use a Skid Steer to clean the barn and help with crops as well. Shelby said she and Amber especially like to milk together.

But farm work isn't their only pursuit. In addition to 4-H, the children said they belong to Science Club at school and Awana at the Solway Bible Chapel.

Ward said Beltrami County 4-H is growing with 16 clubs and 400 youngsters enrolled. More than 100 adult volunteers help with the projects. She said 229 4-Hers have registered to exhibit 2,042 projects and animals at the 2010 Beltrami County Fair.

The fair opens Wednesday, July 28, free gate day, for static exhibits. Animals arrive Thursday. The fair closes Sunday afternoon.