Abby Hopp is shown with a dairy cow she is taking to the Fillmore County Fair later this month. She is a member of the Chatfield Root River Rabbits 4-H Club.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Abby Hopp is shown with a dairy cow she is taking to the Fillmore County Fair later this month. She is a member of the Chatfield Root River Rabbits 4-H Club. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Abby Hopp wanted some Sass in the show ring.

"I wanted to show pigs like Alex Sass," said the Chatfield Root River Rabbits 4-H member. She recalled how she became a 4-H Cloverbud in kindergarten because she saw 4-H alum Sass's success in the Fillmore County Fair show ring.

Hopp, who lives on Sass Dairy Farm outside of Chatfield, where her father, Doug, is herdsman, gained confidence from joining 4-H at her parents' encouragement.

According to her mother, Heather, she ventured to take on projects such as dairy, swine, woodworking, purchased clothing, fishing sports, exploring animals, child development and safety, fine arts and more. She has also vied for leadership positions within the club.

Abby has held office as club secretary and treasurer, and as federation vice president.

She explained, "Being vice president means I'm in charge of the Ambassadors program, which is for sixth through 12th graders. I help plan events for the fair. We did a lock-in in March, and I'm hoping that the events we planned for the fair go well."

Abby also shared that she feels more confident and knows that her teamwork skills are better than they used to be. "My speaking skills are better - I used to be really shy - and I can plan events by myself," she added. "I know the components I need to go into an event, so I can plan an event with a friend and not need help."

This year, the 15-year-old dairy devotee has been in the barn caring for six dairy cows and five pigs. She's also planning on bringing purchased clothing, photography, youth leadership, food and nutrition and self-determined projects, as well as working on the club's banner and its Community Pride project.

"I took a cow and a heifer and got to go to the state fair the first year I was eligible. The last two years, I was honored in the Dairy Showcase," Abby added.

She explained that the top 25 dairy kids at the state fair are awarded a prize because they don't sell their dairy cows at the end of the fair. Instead, their cows are returned to the barn to be milked.

Abby said, "I got 18th and 12th out of 25."

The week before the fair is the busiest for her as she prepares her projects, Abby said. "I start a long time before - in March, I pick out 25 to 50 in a class or age group of cows and register my choices ahead of time. I don't know how they'll grow, but I switch them to eating hay. When I'm judging them, I pick the tallest, the best, and then I get them to lose or gain weight based on what I feed them."

Abby has been a member of the dairy quiz bowl team since she was in fourth grade, so choosing a cow or heifer to take to the fair may not be an easy decision, but it's one that's made judiciously.

She has chosen a two-year-old heifer, and she'd like to see if it shows well and hopes to go to the state fair.

"I hope my pigs do good, too," Abby said. "A lot of my friends are at the fair with their dairy, and I like training, showing, meeting a lot of friends and showing my cows at the state fair."

She thinks the best part of showing dairy is participants keep them every year instead of having to buy a new one. "You get to watch it grow from a calf...to until you have to sell it, and I haven't had to do that yet," Abby said. "I like all the people around in the coliseum. It's like a game to see what you can get. You're basically proving what you've done all year...it's basically the reward at the end."

Abby knows that the ways to achieve that reward mean getting out of bed and cleaning, grooming and exercising her animals and she anticipates showing them.

"I wash and clip, walk pigs to build their muscle, wash and clip cows. I look forward to seeing how it pays off, how I can improve what I've had at the state fair, and then starting over again," she said. "I love everything about the fair and 4-H. 4-H is pretty awesome. And the fair...cheese curds. I'll love them forever. It's fair season when I have them."

Abby aspires first to do well at the fair, have her cheese curds and eat them, too, then to run for president of the Root River Rabbits 4-H Club and also for treasurer of the Fillmore County 4-H Federation.

In the future, Abby hopes to have her own farm. "My dream is to have a dairy, beef and swine farm...a small farm of maybe 50," she concluded.