Aug. 6 2012 07:50 AM

Youth at the Wisconsin State Fair share messages with fairgoers.

Showing livestock at the fair can be a hectic time filled with preparing for shows and interviews, as well as keeping up with chores at the fair and home. While it may seem you have no time to rest or stop to think, you should be prepared for the questions fairgoers may ask.

I recently judged the educational displays and herdsmanship for junior dairy exhibitors at the Wisconsin State Fair. The youth exhibitors were quick to come and ask me if I had any questions as soon as they spotted my clipboard, knowing that they would receive points for interacting with the judge. We asked each youth the same question: "What message do you want to bring to fairgoers when they pass through the barn." After talking to youth from several counties, I came up with a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare to interact with fairgoers.

1. Be prepared to respond to the negative.
When asked what message he wants to bring to consumers, Cody Getschel of Polk County said, "There are a lot of negatives about our industry on the news. We want to make sure people see the positives." With this point in mind, stay informed about negatives in the media, and be prepared to respond to these negatives with solid positive facts without becoming overly defensive.

2. Don't assume people already know the basics.
Ben Kosten of Manitowoc County said, "We live in America's Dairyland, but people need to be reminded that we are excited to put food on the table." Ben makes a good point, people are becoming further and further removed from agriculture, so the county or state fair may be the only time they see a dairy cow. Take each question seriously, even if it seems basic or humorous to you.

3. Show pride in your animals and industry.
One of the best ways to maintain a positive image for the dairy industry at the fair is to keep your area in the barn clean. While you may be motivated to maintain a clean area because of a herdsmanship competition, displaying a positive image to fairgoers should provide extra incentive. Youth at the Wisconsin State Fair, like many other fairs, create educational displays near their animals. Make a point to provide current, accurate and engaging information with your display. Also, don't be afraid to add a personal touch. Youth from Sheboygan County created a display about the cheese plants in their county. By personalizing the display, they were able to more easily connect with consumers.

Even though preparing to exhibit at a fair can be a busy and hectic time, you should make the extra effort to answer consumers' questions and display your area with pride. To equip yourself to interact with consumers, use Dairy Management, Inc.'s Telling YOUR Story flip book, which contains consumer tested key messages. More information can be found at You can also learn more about interacting with consumers at the fair from our Young Dairymen page in the April 25, 2012, issue of Hoard's Dairyman.