Showing his skills: 4-H’er set for project-filled fair



For Michael Claycamp, it all started with a pig.

When he decided to get involved in the Jackson County 4-H program seven years ago, his only project at the county fair was showing a barrow.

The next year, he also completed aerospace and model projects.

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For this year’s fair, which runs Sunday through July 29, he plans to have as many as 17 projects.

That includes showing two pigs, one rabbit and at least three chickens; doing posters for goats, horses and cows; showing off his sewing projects in the fashion revue; and displaying his aerospace, construction toy, woodworking, plant science and garden projects.

The 15-year-old Seymour High School sophomore wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because of 4-H, he said he has a lot more knowledge, skills and opportunities. Plus, it led to him joining FFA, where he gains even more valuable knowledge and experience.

“If I wouldn’t have done 4-H, I would probably be a lot lazier. 4-H keeps me busy,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of new friends. I know now I want to go into a field of agriculture, business or business management or ownership of a farm. I’ve learned a lot of new skills.”

Between Michael’s two siblings, Nathaniel, 16, and Grace, 12, and their father, Scott, and all of his siblings participating in 4-H, the family has been involved with the fair for about 40 years.

“It’s a headache, but it’s something you look forward to every year,” Scott said of ensuring all of the projects are done on time. “We’re normally at the fair all day every day.”

Scott said it’s a big responsibility for Michael, but he always gets everything done.

“You can tell which projects he really cares for the most because you don’t have to remind him that the fair is in a week or two and he needs to have it done,” Scott said, smiling. “All three of my children have been in 4-H. They take pride in it, and I believe all of them have had state fair entries.”

Michael said he typically starts working on projects during Christmas break.

With animals, he starts with pigs in early January. He and his family raise and breed their own pigs.

“Breeding them, that’s kind of hard because you have to make sure the timing is correct,” he said. “You can’t have them born in December, but you want them after January, so you have to have that 30 days that you want them to go into heat.”

Once they are born, he said he spends time with them so they aren’t afraid when he weans them.

“Then you pretty much lose everything when you cut them, band them and all of that,” he said. “Once you clip their teeth, they usually hate you for a few weeks.”

In choosing which pigs to show at the fair, Michael said he bases it on color. One he is showing this year has black stripes on its back, and he picked it out right away when it was born. A pig also needs to be square in the back and have good weight, he said.

He usually starts working with the pigs about 60 days before the fair to have them ready for the swine show.

“When I first started with pigs, I was real nervous because I was still small, and I had a 300-pound boar that could run you over. I got out there and it started running around, and I was scared, and I started chasing it,” Michael said.

“But now, I’ve learned to just keep my hand on the back, walk it slowly. You don’t want to run toward it or you will scare it more,” he said. “I’m able to actually pick some of them up and work with the pigs more and be able to contain them.”

Even after several years of showing pigs, Michael said he still gets nervous walking around the show arena.

“I’m kind of at that point I’m not going to win. I don’t have the $2,000 pig. I’ve got a market hog,” he said. “I’m not going in there to win. I’m going in there to have more fun and get to know the pig.”

Michael said he just likes being around pigs.

“It’s actually really fun playing with the pigs sometimes because they have personalities, too,” he said. “They are calm one moment, loving, they’ll chew on your toe, and then all of a sudden, they want to fight and eat you.”

This is his second year working with rabbits. Those require feeding each night and grooming.

“They are a lot easier because you don’t have to worry about weight as much,” Michael said. “Pigs, you have to watch the weight and diet, so rabbits are much simpler.”

Michael said he has 50 chickens and hatches his own. In choosing which ones to take to the fair, he goes for looks, size and a healthy appearance.

“Right now, a lot of mine are molting, so they have bare backs, so I’ll pick one of the younger ones,” he said.

Even though he has cows, horses and goats at home, Michael hasn’t shown them at the fair. He said the only one he plans to show in the future is cows.

“I’m determined my 10th year of 4-H, senior year, I’m going to show a cow,” he said.

With his non-animal projects, Michael has done sewing and aerospace all seven years.

He said he usually does the best in sewing. Last year, he earned three grand champion titles and one reserve grand champion.

4-H’ers can enter a wearable, a nonwearable or both. With wearables, they don’t find out results until after the fashion revue on the Tuesday of fair week.

“It was hilarious last year because I didn’t think I did that good, I was the only guy, I was real nervous going in front of all of these girls modeling and they announced, ‘Grand champion Michael Claycamp,’” he said.

Michael said he learned a lot of his sewing skills from his grandmother, Cindy Claycamp, and he also has been able to work on his projects and receive some help during 4-H summer sewing workshops.

He said it’s all worth it because sewing is a lifelong skill.

“You never forget it,” Michael said.

He has spent recent weeks working on his construction toy project, a Lego barn, and his aerospace project, a small rocket.

With gardening, though, he said he usually begins that project early. He manages his own garden and greenhouse at home.

“I enjoy gardening because instead of being able to just eat food, I can actually show what I’ve grown,” he said.

Along with working on his projects, Michael also has stayed busy this summer participating in 4-H and FFA activities, going on a mission trip and working Saturdays at Ruddick Stables.

“As he has gotten older, having time to do the projects is getting harder and harder,” Scott said.

He said it has been interesting to see the 4-H program evolve over the years, starting with focusing on animals and changing over the years to also include non-animal projects.

“Anyone with an agribusiness degree, they can do anything. They can work at a bank, they can work on a farm, work for a business, accounting. That ag added to anything is just so broad anymore,” Scott said. “The 4-H program has seen that years ago and has just built on everything else. It’s not purely agriculture.”

He said that has been good for youth, whether they live on a farm or in the city.

“I think it just brings a lot more education out there to some children that may never get it,” he said.

Besides his 4-H shows at the fair, Michael will be working in the FFA and 4-H building, including Monday night when he will teach animal biosecurity that he learned about during a Teens as Teachers conference earlier this year. On Friday night, he will work at the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association and Pork Producers food stand.

“Wednesday is the only day I get a break,” he said of fair week.

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From pigs to chickens to sewing to aerospace, Michael Claycamp is involved in several 4-H projects for this year’s Jackson County Fair, which starts Sunday and runs through July 29.

Every day of that week, he will submit a diary sharing his experiences at the fair with Tribune readers.

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Name: Michael Claycamp

Age: 15

Hometown: Cortland

Residence: Cortland

Education: Sophomore at Seymour High School

Organizations: FFA, 4-H Junior Leaders

Family: Parents, Scott and Rebecca Claycamp; siblings, Nathaniel Claycamp, 16, and Grace Claycamp, 12

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For information about this year’s Jackson County Fair, visit


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