Masontown girl pulls off heroic task at state farm show
When Lauren Diamond, an Albert Gallatin High School freshman and member of the Fayette County 4-H Market Goat Club, begins searching for a market goat each spring, she knows exactly what she wants.
As she scours area farms each spring for the perfect market goat — one used for its meat, rather than milk or cheese, explained Deb Marella, Fayette County 4-H Market Goat Club leader for seven years — Diamond, a Masontown local, says she likes to think she has a good eye for goats, as well as other animals.
And she can easily back up what she says.
At both the 2009 and 2010 Fayette County fairs, Diamond, a member of county 4-H lamb, beef, and swine clubs, copped the Grand Champion Market Pig award. At the 2013 fair last summer, Diamond showed lambs, goats, pigs and steers.
But her coup de grace came in January when her market goat, Fred, was named Grand Champion Market Goat at the prestigious Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
No, his name wasn't pulled from Diamond's family history. “Sometimes the animals, like dogs or cats, have a certain personality,” Diamond said, laughing, “and I thought his personality matched the name Fred.”
Although Fred was sold at auction at the farm show, as is standard practice, Diamond will have another goat in time for the Fayette County Fair this summer.
“Lauren works very hard and produces quality animals,” Marella said. “She is a good showman and does not get nervous or frazzled when showing her animals in the ring. The time and effort she spends working with her animals shows in her ability to present her livestock at fairs. She was very deserving of the honor at the farm show, and I'm proud of her and her efforts.”
Marella added that Diamond was initially one of six division champions at the farm show, then moved on to win the Grand Champion honor, the top prize in her class. About 80 head of goats in Diamond's division were entered from throughout Pennsylvania.
When purchasing an animal, one has to think about what the animal will look like after working with it, Diamond said.
With goats weighing approximately 30-35 pounds when acquired in the spring, the road from raising the animals to showing at the county fair to a farm show title involves time and dedication.
“It's hard work every day,” Diamond explained. “I work with my animals every day on our (42-acre) farm when I get home from school, making sure they are clean and fed. Exercising the animals and keeping them healthy with a proper diet are very important. I work every day with the animals to get them to cooperate with me. I lead an animal such as Fred with a collar and practice showing it to my brother, Zack (who also shows goats, pigs, lambs), and dad (David, a former 4-H member and now club leader). It's necessary to work with an animal to improve its appearance. I walk my animals around our farm and set them up to make sure their feet are square for showing. For the shows, I wash and clip the animals and make sure they are clean and presentable.”
To qualify to show an animal such as Fred for the Pennsylvania Farm Show, one has to show a project at the county fair level, even though it will not or may not be the same animal, depending on the time of year and type of animal. In Diamond's case, she showed another market goat at the Fayette County Fair — same species, different animal — to qualify for the state program.
In addition to her farming activities, Diamond, a straight-A student, is a member of the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church Youth Group in Smithfield and is a hospice volunteer in Morgantown, assisting patients with various activities, including helping make crafts and keeping them company since many do not have families, she added.
Although Diamond's honor came with her market goat, she professes that she has no preference regarding working with any of her animals.
“I like to work with all of my animals,” she said, noting that she and her family “raise and breed pigs, lambs, goats, steers, our 4-H animals. I like to see them grow and develop and mature. From a young age I've always loved working with my animals and can see myself becoming a veterinarian and continuing that work.”
Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.