CALDWELL, Texas — It’s a pivotal time of year for many kids in Burleson County.
This week is the annual Burleson County Fair, where hundreds of exhibitors have been showing off the hard work put into animal rearing, craft work and baking.
For kids like cousins Aubrey and Braxton Lockhart, taking care of goats, chickens, rabbits and steers isn’t a hobby. It’s a responsibility, and a major part of each day.
“If we’re doing haltered heifers, we’ll get up early in the morning and we’ll come to the barn, get them from tie-outs, bring them in, blow all the shavings off, tie them down and feed them," said Aubrey, an 11-year-old exhibitor at the fair. "After they’re all done feeding, we’ll give them some hay.”
More than 300 kids from 3rd to 12th grade are showing animals at the fair this week, with additional children and adults entering cooking, crafting, and manufacturing competitions.
For some participants, 4-H and FFA are ways of life passed down from grandparent, to parent, to grandchild.
“We try and instill that without agriculture, you can’t eat, you can’t be clothed, because that’s all agricultural products," said Dennis Gaas, director of the Burleson County Fair Association and multi-generational rancher.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2017 alone, Texas agriculture contributed $25 billion to the national economy, and Texas remains first in the country for number of farms.
As today’s farmers and ranchers begin to age out of the profession, it’s kids like these who will be filling their shoes.
“I think I’ll always be able to do something around ag work, because I’ve been around it my whole life, and I like working around ag," said Luke Novosad, 13, a fair exhibitor.
Gaas said this kind of work teaches children not only about working with animals, but about leadership, and responsibility. Life skills like these make a lasting impression.
“I love it," said Braxton Lockhart, an 8-year-old fair exhibitor. "I love that I get to interact with all the animals, and when they trust you, you make sure they can depend on you.”
The Burleson county fair continues now through Sunday morning.