by Emily Leeson
Alex Smith of Londonderry, N.S., is heading to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. Smith and Drama Queen, the Charolais heifer that she’s been training, have completed a successful year on the Nova Scotia 4-H circuit, and now they’ll make their way to Ontario for the Royal in early November. The trip will be a big change of scene for Smith.
“I’m nervous and excited too,” she said. “Small town shows to this sort of big city show – it’s probably going to be very different!”
Smith is a recent graduate of the Cobequid Educational Centre in Truro, and this is her fourth year with the Onslow-Belmont 4-H club. Carolyn and Joe Cooper of Balamore Farm in Great Village lead the club’s beef program that Smith is part of. While Smith did not grow up on a farm, her parents work at Balamore Farm, and she herself has been a summer employee there since Grade 9. She first visited the farm with her parents during a “take your kid to work day” and was intrigued enough to ask about a summer job for herself.
“I’ve been working there ever since,” said Smith. It was around that same time that she got involved with the local 4-H club at Carolyn Cooper’s suggestion.
The Coopers and their three sons raise cattle and produce strawberries, strawberry plants, and perennial plants on their 1,000-acre farm.
Smith’s work was primarily with the strawberries but she occasionally worked with the cattle as well. In fact, she enjoyed her time on the farm so much that while she’s considering a mechanics or welding course, she’s not ruling out working with cattle as a career prospect.
In January 2015, the farm introduced Charolais into their herd and Smith has been training with the Balamore Charolais heifer Drama Queen since January of this year. According to Smith, aside from halter-breaking, a lot of that training time has just been about letting Drama Queen get comfortable with her. “There’s a lot of walking them around, brushing them, getting them used to us,” she said.
And that work has been paying off. Smith and Drama Queen placed first out of five in the yearling class and achieved the reserve champion title in the next stage at the 4-H Nova Scotia Provincial Show in Lawrencetown, Annapolis County, Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Smith is the only one of about 50 members from her local 4-H club selected to compete at the Royal, although others will attend to watch and take part in some of the open shows.
Smith is now among quite a select group. Only 10 4-H members from the beef program in Nova Scotia are selected each year to travel to Toronto to compete in the Royal’s junior beef heifer show for the grand champion title. Those invited to attend are selected by the judges at the 4-H Provincial Show. Members must be at least 14 and have already been participating with the beef program for at least a year before they can qualify.
Being selected to attend means that Smith’s travel expenses and Drama Queen’s transportation are covered. While Smith will take her first plane ride to make it to the show on time for Nov. 3, Drama Queen will take a slightly longer route via a trailer with other cattle selected to attend.
Smith is excited about the big show. “There’s going to be a lot more people and a lot going on,” she said.
This is the 95th year of the Royal in Toronto. The fair features more than 2,000 agricultural competitions and is the largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show in the world. For the second year in a row, the Royal will livestream the cattle shows through their website royalfair.org.
by Emily Leeson