Brownsville Area senior wins major honor at state farm show
Sounds like just another day at the beauty parlor. For grooming perfect hair, Brownsville Area High School senior Scott Gardner knows what steps to take.
First, you make sure to wet the hair every day, he explained, followed with a thorough combing, training the hair to go in one direction. Next comes a heavy duty hair dryer to make sure the hair is completely dry. Add conditioner, which works the hair properly, as well as providing additional benefit for the skin at the same time.
Of course, Gardner is specifically referring to grooming Baxter, his 1,305-pound steer, named Grand Champion Market Steer at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg in January.
Although Gardner, who resides in Grindstone, had a Grand Champion pig at the Farm Show in 2007 and Reserve Champion pig at the 2011 Farm Show, Baxter is the fourth steer he has taken to the Farm Show.
“This is a sweet and special deal to finally win,” said Gardner, with more than a hint of excitement in his voice. “Baxter is my first Grand Champion steer and winning this title is awesome. This means I've finally done it.”
“I have a fun time naming my farm animals,” Gardner laughed, adding that Baxter was the name of “Anchorman” Ron Burgundy's dog. “I make it like a game to name them, and Baxter seemed the perfect name.”
Prior to escorting Baxter to the Farm Show, Gardner's road to Harrisburg had already been paved with success. Prior titles at the Fayette County Fair, include Grand Champion Pig (2005), Grand Champion Steer (2006), Reserve Champion Pig (2007), Grand Champion Steer (2008), Grand Champion Goat and Reserve Champion Steer (2010), Reserve Champion Pig (2011), Grand Champion Steer (2012, 2013), and Supreme Overall Showman (2013). Additionally, at the 2011 National Junior Summer Spectacular in Louisville, Ky., he was awarded Grand Champion Yorkshire Gilt (female) (breed of pig); and Reserve Overall Pig.
“I've done well at the Fayette County Fair,” he said. “I have been blessed.”
However, preparing for a show involves considerable work, Gardner said, adding that he spends several hours per day taking care of his animals' needs at his grandparents' 300-acre farm in Washington County, raising some 60 head of beef cows.
“Feeding is the first priority, then taking care of the steer's hair,” he said. “I wash the animal once a week, but I wet down and comb the animal every day. Using a heavy duty hair dryer trains the hair to go in one direction. Once the hair is completely dry, conditioner is added.”
As 4-H organizational director of the Fayette County Beef Club, Linda Rooker has “watched Scott develop his agricultural activities since he was a little boy,” she said.
“He is a hard worker and has a definite interest in all of his projects, including lambs, goats, and pigs.” Rooker said. “He wants to learn and is determined to do well at what he does. Cleaning, washing, and grooming are very important and time-consuming, and one has to want to do this, and he does. With market steers weighing between 1,000-1,400 pounds, Scott will do extra work to exhibit outside of the county. This is an all-year project to show a steer at the fair and Farm Show.”
Champion steers are thicker and provide more meat, Rooker added. In order to show at the Farm Show, a steer must be first tagged (designated) in its respective county and must be shown at that county fair in July or August.
But while Baxter wore the crown of Grand Champion steer, Gardner fully understands the future of champions such as Baxter, exhibited at fairs for showmanship projects before being sold at auction for their meat.
Overall confirmation of an animal such as Baxter is the No. 1 feature on which judges base their decisions.
“A steer must be sound on its feet, massive but not extremely massive, and structurally correct, but that obviously depends on genetics,” explained Gardner, a 4-H member since he was 8 years old, noting he acquired Baxter in May 2013. “Grooming, diet, cleanliness and finished properly with an appropriate amount of fat are also issues in the mix.”
In his last year in 4-H due to his age (18), Gardner has been a four-year letter-winnner in football for the Falcons, earning all-county recognition as an offensive/defensive lineman his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, and all-conference honors as a senior. At Brownsville, where he is an A/B student and ranked among the top 15 students in his senior class, he is a member of the Academic League, Spanish Honor Society and Robotics Club. His 4-H involvement includes membership in the Fayette County Steer, Pig, Lamb and Goat clubs.
With high school graduation only months away, Gardner plans to attend Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus for two years, before completing his undergraduate work at Penn State's main campus, where he plans to major in accounting or agricultural activities.
Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.