by Jesse Mitchell, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2021 – The Portage County Fair ran from August 25 to August 29 and provided Portage County residents with the opportunity to show animals through a nonprofit organization called 4H. Nate Swift, a 10th-grader, sold ducks there, just as he has for the past eight-years. Swift first became interested in 4-H and showing animals because of his siblings’ previous involvement and the prospect of earning money. 

Swift’s work with his 4H club has left even more prepared and confident in his animals and showing them at the fair. The club Swift is a part of is 4H, an organization devoted to working with children across America. 4H promotes learning in science, healthy living, and community engagement, and stands for “head, heart, hands and health,” according to the 4H website.

Nate Swift’s duck was displayed at the Portage County Fair, waiting to be bid on and sold to a willing buyer. Photo provided by Morgan Whiteman, 10th-grader

Last year, Swift began raising his two-month old ducks through 4H, to have the animals ready in August for the fair. Size and muscle development are Swift’s biggest criteria to look for when bringing an animal to the fair. He identifies prime candidates to show from the way animals walk and look and the feeling of their muscle tissue. 

Swift has, in years past, shown other animals like lambs, however, this year he chose ducks, citing the current COVID-19 pandemic as cause for concern. Swift stated, “Because of the uncertainty of the fair, it was harder to know whether or not we could actually raise them [lambs] and take them to the fair, and market prices are down.”

Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, Swift remained excited, and ultimately the pandemic brought change for good.  Swift noticed changes in and around the fair and in his 4-H club, where keeping safe has been a priority. 

Swift said, “From my perspective at the fair … everything is clean and sanitary, compared to years before.” Despite the pandemic, he’s been able to continue meeting with the club, where he gets to work with adults and students of all backgrounds. Part of what Swift enjoys most about his work with his club is getting to work outside and doing community projects with them.

Swift’s work with 4-H has also made him a better student. “I also get many different life skills that many people don’t earn just through school, [such as] communication skills, especially being able to present myself to people and in a professional way,” Swift said, speaking about his growth over the years through 4H. Swift has developed a strong understanding of science and solid presentation and communication skills through 4-H, which has only helped him since transitioning to Bio-Med four years ago when he started as a sixth-grader.

His 4-H club and the Portage Community Fair have contributed to his life in numerous ways. “I would recommend it, but it is hard to start in high school when you’re older, ” Swift said when talking about if he would encourage others to join 4-H. His skills have grown through his work and has helped him to become a better learner and more connected to his community and peers. Swift has enjoyed making money doing his work with 4-H and the impact it has had on him throughout the years.

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