Nath excited for fair week in Rock County
LUVERNE -- Lucas Nath wasn't even a month old when he made his first visit to the Rock County Fair in Luverne 19 years ago. Back then, his older brothers and sisters pushed him around the fairgrounds in a stroller.
As the years went on, it was those same older siblings who shared their love and excitement for 4-H and the county fair with young Lucas. He couldn't wait until he was old enough to be a Cloverbud, and then a regular 4-H member. He wanted to exhibit livestock just like they did -- he wanted to be a livestock showman just like they were.
One might say he followed in the 14 footsteps of his seven older brothers and sisters when it came to 4-H.
This week, Lucas will be among dozens of 4-H'ers to show off their work at the 2012 Rock County Fair. He is bringing four pigs, four sheep and three cattle to the fair for judging and perhaps more importantly, to showcase his knowledge in animal science as a livestock showman.
Lucas is a member of the Magnolia Juniors 4-H Club, where he has served as president for the past three years and mentored many of the club's 28 members.
The Nath family has been involved in Rock County 4-H for the past 25 years, and just as Lucas nears the end of his 4-H career (he has one more year to participate), the next generation has already become involved. Lucas has a nephew in his third year of 4-H, a young boy who looks up to Lucas much like Lucas looked up to his older siblings.
"I was always watching them, and now, all of a sudden, here's someone watching me," Lucas said, offering a shy smile.
Always a livestock exhibitor, Lucas has benefitted from having so many older siblings in 4-H. This week, some of them will return to help him get his animals ready for the show ring.
"(Ben and Sarah) have helped a lot," he said.
Lucas prides himself on having raised each one of his show animals from birth, and is more excited about competing in showmanship than he is the actual classes. He has earned champion swine showman seven times, and reserve twice, while the beef and sheep showmanship contests have proved more of a challenge. He's spent a little extra time on those two species this year.
In 2008, Lucas won reserve champion premiere showman, a contest in which 4-H participants have to show several different livestock species to showcase their skills and knowledge of livestock. The following year, as a high school freshman, he was named the champion premiere showman for Rock County 4-H. Once a 4-H'er earns the champion, they can no longer compete in the contest.
Lucas will show two barrows and two gilts in the swine show, which begins at 8 a.m. Thursday, and then two ewe and two wether Dorset-Suffolk cross lambs in the sheep show at 3 p.m. that afternoon. He will wrap up his livestock contests with the beef show at 8 a.m. on Friday.
In his 4-H career, Lucas has earned four trips to the Minnesota State Fair, exhibiting beef two years and sheep two years. This time, he's hoping he will earn a state fair trip with his beef steer, Rocky. Lucas has been working with the animal since last October, and with the heat of summer, the steer gets bathed four to five times a week and spends a lot of time on the halter as Lucas walks him around the farm yard.
The show lambs are walked a couple of times per week, making it about two-thirds of the way down the Nath's nearly half-mile-long driveway.
While Lucas does much of the fair preparation for his animals, his parents Mike and Janet have been in the background, supporting not just him, but all of their kids during their 4-H experiences.
"I think it's a great program," Janet said, adding 4-H made all of their kids more outgoing and feel at ease when speaking in front of groups.
"It's kind of helped them in their careers too," Mike added.
The Naths say 4-H is one of those activities they can do as a family, and that is what they most enjoy about the organization.
Lucas, a Rock County 4-H Ambassador, said his favorite aspect of 4-H is meeting new people.
"I've made a lot of friends in 4-H," he said.
A 2012 Luverne High School graduate, Lucas will attend Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington this fall for agriculture business.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.