Amy Welch's sheep are just one of the projects she's invested time in this year, as she's also working on a quilt for the fair.   GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Amy Welch's sheep are just one of the projects she's invested time in this year, as she's also working on a quilt for the fair. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Amy Welch has always grown mental clover.

"It's just something that's always been there, something that's always kind of been around, kind of a way of life, something I've enjoyed,"16-year-old Welch, daughter of Scott and Rachel Welch of rural Spring Valley said about 4-H. "There's so many different things to do, a variety of things that you can find to fit what I like to do."

Her mother, a veteran 4-H member whose parents, Harris and Geraldine Williams, were also 4-H enthusiasts, enrolled her daughter in 4-H because she felt that it would provide her with a framework for building leadership skills, learning and sprouting confidence.

Amy related that she's been in 4-H for 11 years and when she started as a kindergartner Cloverbud, her first fair projects - Cloverbud projects, or those done between kindergarten and third grade - included constructed clothing, crafts, fashion revue and foods. She's since grown to enjoy quilting, foods, raising sheep, photography, crafts, lamb lead - wearing a wool garment while leading a sheep at the fair as a way to promote the wool industry, and youth leadership projects, but "quilting is probably my favorite." She's busy making a star-patterned batik quilt as her entry into the quilting category at the Fillmore County Fair, along with rising and shining each morning to clean stalls, exercise her sheep and keep an eye on her pig. She's found that as the years have passed, she's become more capable of doing numerous projects at once.

"I still really like 4-H, and I like it even more now that I can almost do everything on my own," said Amy. "It's easier to find some experiences with more challenges...I do them because I can actually do them. I've always taken sheep to the fair, but this is the first pig I've raised. Taking sheep to the fair is kind of a pattern. I usually place pretty high so I can go to the state fair. It's a good thing. I've gone to the state fair every year I've been eligible."

She's "looking forward to everything" at the fair, beginning with staying at a hotel in Preston all week and "hanging out with people I don't normally see. It's fun. I like the atmosphere. I like 4-H and the fair because they give me opportunities to meet lots of new people, learn so many things that I probably wouldn't if I weren't in 4-H. It helps build you as a person."

Her younger brother, Jacob, has been a 4-Her since kindergarten as well, and he's in his seventh year of membership.

"I'm kind of looking forward to bringing my projects to the fair. I've done crafts, shop or woodworking and sewing as a Cloverbud," said Jacob. "I've had pigs all three years, and this is my third year taking a pig to the fair - I started taking pigs to the fair when I was in fourth grade."

Before that, he'd raised sheep to show, and he's learned some show ring skills while preparing for this year's fair, the first year he's eligible to win a state fair trip. He admits to getting "a little nervous" before bringing his livestock project into the ring, but he quickly gains his confidence. His sheep have done well at the shows, and he enjoys the fair because "of the motivation other people give you to do different things, to meet people, to do projects...it's fun to do this project, and do it by myself. I like it kind of so people can see how hard I've worked with my animal, that you do your best."

Rachel commented that while Jacob's future career aspirations change regularly, she feels that he wouldn't have expressed an interest in veterinary science if he hadn't become a 4-Her.

Jacob particularly likes "meeting new people, learning different things" while participating in the fair and also in daily 4-H activities. He plans to take advantage of the Fillmore County Fair this year by "looking at different animals and other projects and getting ideas for next year." Additionally, he has to satisfy one particular craving...a daily malt from the Fillmore County Dairy Association's malt stand.

He invited others to attend the fair. "They should come down. If they don't go, they're missing out on a lot of activities. Come see things people have made, animals they've raised."

Editor's note: This is the second in a weekly series of three articles highlighting preparations by area families for the Fillmore County Fair.