By Doug Graves
COLUMBUS, Ohio – They’ve been an integral part of their county fairs and gone beyond the call of duty. Now, 20 highly accomplished 4-H’ers from their respective counties are taking their talents to the state level to participate on the Ohio State Fair Junior Fair Board (JFB). Of the 20 members, 12 are second-year members returning from 2022.
Each member is selected to represent their respective organizations, including 4-H, FFA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts of America, farm bureau and Tech Ed. The individuals from these organizations represent thousands of involved youth throughout Ohio.
Selected from Hancock County were Erica Patterson and Zach Romero.
“I served on the Hancock County Fair Junior Fair Board and thought I’d apply for the Ohio State Junior Fair Board,” Patterson said. “I interviewed and got the position. I was overjoyed.”
Patterson, of Findlay, joins JFB as an at-large member. She is a senior at Liberty-Benton High School and is a decorated 4-H member. Patterson was also involved in FFA, serving as the chapter’s treasurer for two years before becoming chapter president her senior year. She has been showing pigs for many years and recently started showing cattle. She will attend Findlay University this fall to study animal sciences, with minors in business and marketing.
Patterson was a Hancock County Fair Junior Fair Board officer with the Hancock County Fair for four years and is a member of the Wood County 4-H Livestock Judging Team. While in college she plans to pursue an internship with an agricultural company.
“After college I will seek a job as a digital marketer for an agricultural establishment while building my own photography and marketing company,” she said. “In addition to all this, I intend to continue assisting with my family’s multi-generational grain and livestock operation. I also make it a goal to stay involved in 4-H, FFA and Ohio’s fairs.”
Patterson is not short in 4-H involvement. The past four years she served as the Millstream Farmers 4-H Club president, was a Hancock County 4-H Advisory Council Officer, a Hancock County 4-H Camp counselor and Hancock County 4-H Outstanding 4-H’er of the Year, just to mention a few.
“My entire family was involved in 4-H,” Patterson said. “For me, I love working with an educating youth.”
Patterson enjoys exhibiting cattle and pigs around the country with her family. The National Western Stock Show, Houston Stock Show and Rodeo, American Royal Stock Show, and North American International Livestock Exposition are just a few stops in her busy schedule. Patterson served in the FFA too, earning the Star Agribusiness, Star Agricultural Business and Star Farmer recognition in high school.
Romero, of McComb, was a student at McComb High School. Zach represents 4-H on this year’s State Junior Fair Board. He was recently elected to be the vice president of Outreach for Ohio Teen Leadership Council and served as a 4-H camp counselor.
Though he didn’t grow up on a farm, Romero has a passion for agriculture.
“Originally, I went to college to be an ag teacher, but during just the second week of school I decided to go into ag industry studies rather than the education route,” he said. “I credit the people within 4-H for what I’ve accomplished. It’s all the people I met along the way, starting with my parents. My ag teacher, Jim Pierce, helped push me a lot, too.”
“I was pretty involved in both FFA and 4-H, but 4-H was my main passion,” Romero said.
GraceLynn Harter, of Darke County, will see her first year on the board. She, too, will represent 4-H on the board.
Harter is a senior at Ohio Virtual Academy. Her plans include attending Wright State University Lake Campus to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Then she wants to obtain a doctorate from Ohio State University with a minor in social work or communication leadership. Counseling with non-profits is her ultimate goal.
“Through all this, 4-H has had a big influence on my life,” Harter said. “Being in 4-H has led me to different opportunities and to be able to work with different organizations even outside of 4-H. Most of all, I enjoy working with youth a lot.”
Harter gained experience at the state level even before being selected to the board.
“I was a 4-H youth assistant at the Ohio State Fair and served on the Team Leadership Committee as well as the Ohio 4H Leadership Council,” Harter said. “I networked with those who were on the Ohio State Junior Fair Board and I saw all these opportunities at the state level.”
Harter does not live on a farm, though she handles goats, chickens and has show horses. For extra income she packs eggs at a local chicken house.
Virgil Strickler, general manager of the Ohio State Fair, recognizes the impact of these ambitious youth.
“The Ohio State Fair Junior Fair Board is comprised of eager young leaders who have demonstrated their dedication to the state of Ohio through their respective organizations,” Strickler said. “This opportunity will help these youth expand upon their leadership skills and contribute to the success of this year’s Ohio State Fair.”
Throughout the 12 days of the Ohio State Fair, the 19 JFB members can be spotted on the grounds in their blue polo shirts welcoming officials to livestock shows, performances, the daily parade, providing supplies at the Monster Mural outside the Lausche Youth Exploration Space, helping with youth fishing in the Natural Resources Park, assisting with the Little Farmers exhibit welcoming guests to shows at the Main Street and Gazebo Stages, ushering patrons to their seats in the WCOL Celeste Center and selling fair memorabilia.
Others elected to the Ohio State Junior Fair Board are Zak Beaver, 4-H, first year (Delaware County); Josie Burke, FFA, second year (Washington County); Elizabeth Fannin, PR officer, 4-H, second year (Jackson County); Madelyn Fannin, FFA, first year (Jackson County); Carter Freeman, Boy Scouts, second year (Franklin County); Olivia Haines, FFA, first year (Wayne County); Marissa Johnston, Girl Scouts, second year (Delaware County); Julia Joos, Tech Ed, second year (Franklin County); Elsa Lapierre, farm bureau, first year (Franklin County); Melina Matics, 4-H, second year (Washington County); Adrianna Meyer, farm bureau, second year (Henry County); Wyatt Morrow, at-large, first year (Highland County); Sara Newsome, president, 4-H, second year (Highland County); Jayden Porter, farm bureau, first year (Franklin County); Grace Robertson, at-large, first year (Adams County); Emily Scaff, secretary, at-large, second year (Scioto County) and Landon Shelpman, vice president, FFA, second year (Clark County).