Jackson County 4-H’er completes all 68 projects for virtual fair


Joining Jackson County 4-H three years ago, Taylor Loudermilk started later than others.

She realized she would only have four years, four summers and four county fairs to explore all that 4-H has to offer.

In mid-January, she decided to go big for this year’s fair and take on all 68 4-H projects.

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Even when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March and resulted in schools doing eLearning and the fair being canceled, Loudermilk was able to complete her projects because 4-H was still offering them to be turned in virtually.

“Doing all 68 projects kept me busy and sane during these past few months,” the 16-year-old Brownstown Central High School junior said. “Each and every one of the projects has taught me something new and interesting about our world, community or myself.”

She was able to include her extended family in her fair experience by sending them photos of her exhibits and telling them all about her newfound knowledge.

“Knowing that I am unable to attend the fair in a traditional format has made this year’s fair one where we adapt and learn,” she said. “While I won’t be able to have the rushing air along my helmet as I race my horse across the timers, I will always remember my 2020 fair experience as unique.”

In her first year of 4-H, Loudermilk only did three projects. Then her second year, she did seven. So this year was quite a jump.

She said she started reading the project manuals and completing activities in early April, but she didn’t dig into making the projects until after the school year ended in early May.

“One of the first projects I started on was Garden: Potato, a project where you grow and exhibit your best potatoes of any variety,” Loudermilk said. “This project allowed me to learn about alternative growing mediums, such as the straw bales that I used. This was one of the first and last projects that I worked on because I had to give the potatoes time to grow.”

The project took a funny turn when she started to harvest the potatoes only to find about three worth eating.

“I believe a raccoon or other forest critter got to them before me,” she said.

Her reading project poster was put together on one of the last days of project turn-in.

“This project was one of my favorites due to it surprising me,” Loudermilk said. “I have never enjoyed reading; however, through this project, I was able to explore the parts of history that interest me and later compare them to our present state, which engaged me to read even more.”

This year, 4-H’ers turned in their projects online through the Fair Entry program from July 1 to 20.

Loudermilk said she started turning in projects July 5 and submitted her final five on the last day.

“This program was very easy to work with and stepped you through each project entry,” she said. “You would select the project name, write a brief description and then add your files in the correct format. The extension office also had technical support volunteers to assist any 4-H’er.”

She wound up doing all 12 animal projects and completed a poster for 11 of them with topics ranging from feed rations to reproductive health and genetics.

“I liked that I was able to learn more about every animal and carried the ability to compare one to the next,” Loudermilk said. “For each of the posters, I not only chose a topic related to the activities completed in the manual but challenged myself to choose a completely separate topic for any of the other animals.”

For example, she learned about dystocia in cows and how to correct this before the calf is born for a more viable delivery; therefore, when she completed the swine project, she chose to learn about the afterbirth procedures to protect and identify a litter of piglets.

She said her favorite animal project was horse and pony.

“Staying at home has been hard these past few months, but I took that time to spend more time with my horse, Flapjack,” she said. “Flapjack and I had the opportunity to dress up in a costume contest for the fair. I decided on a Little Red Riding Hood theme and made him a halter and bought him a red ear bonnet to go with the look.”

She also did 56 building projects, ranging from Arts and Crafts: Painting to Electric to Soil and Water Science.

“They taught me valuable life skills or gave me some knowledgeable facts to win ‘Jeopardy!’ with one day, she said.

Her favorite building project was beekeeping.

“Going into this 4-H year, I was terrified of bees and wouldn’t want to be near one, but after a 4-H leader and volunteer allowed me to tour her beehives and help her transfer one of her hives to a larger brood box (living quarters of sorts), I am not as fearful and actually interested in beekeeping myself,” she said.

Now that she looks back on completing all 68 projects, Loudermilk said she is stunned.

“I would say that it got frustrating at times and was an easy breeze at others, but all in all, I am very proud of myself completing all of these projects,” she said. “In addition, I am also glad that I took a leap of faith within myself and actually signed up for all of these projects in the beginning.”

During this unprecedented year, Loudermilk said she got a lot out of the 4-H experience.

“I feel like this year more than any other year, you get out what you put in,” she said. “If you put in hard work with fitting and training your animal just like any other year, you can do very well, or if you put in a lot of time researching, formatting and making your exhibit/poster, then you will have a greater opportunity to wow the judge and take home that prized grand champion ribbon.”

She said she appreciates the efforts of Purdue Extension Jackson County for creating the virtual fair and posting videos on its Facebook page to let everyone see the results.

She was awarded grand champion for 12 of her projects and reserve grand champion for 14.

“My goal wasn’t to win ribbons,” Loudermilk said. “It was to complete all the projects and gain life skills and knowledge for my future.”

Heather VonDielingen, Jackson County 4-H youth development educator, said she’s very proud of Loudermilk for taking on the challenge of completing 68 projects.

“While in-person programming has been suspended for a few months, Taylor has been able to learn through her 4-H projects,” VonDielingen said. “The heart of 4-H is ‘Learn by Doing,’ and Taylor certainly has lived up to that approach to learning.”

She said it was amazing to watch Loudermilk invest so much time and effort in her 4-H projects.

“She has been creative in learning about each project, has reached out to community experts for advice and gave 100% to every 4-H project she completed,” VonDielingen said. “Taylor truly enjoys being part of the Jackson County 4-H program.”

Next summer, Loudermilk said she hopes the Jackson County Fair can return to normal.

“I am hoping to help with project turn-in, eat some greasy funnel cakes and engage the public to learn more about 4-H and the projects/exhibits next year,” she said. “I hope that everyone will have fun and do something special with their families in lieu of a fair this year but return with an even bigger heart and more joy for hopefully returning to a normal fair next year.”

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Name: Taylor Loudermilk

Age: 16

Residence: Brownstown

School: Junior at Brownstown Central High School

Years in 4-H: 3

4-H clubs: Freetown Leprechauns, Outdoor Connections, Horse and Pony, Junior Leaders

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To see 4-H results from this year’s virtual Jackson County Fair, check out the videos online at bit.ly/2020VirtualFairResults and a listing at bit.ly/JacksonCounty2020VirtualFair.


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