Swap meet raises money for scholarships
“Will you take $35 for her?” a potential buyer asked.
“No, I’m sorry we won’t,” replied Sheri Stees of Lena, Ill. The potential customer walked on.
Sheri and her husband, Floyd, own Flo-Cher Farm. They raise and show turkeys as a hobby. Both have day jobs. Floyd works in a machine shop, and Sheri is an administrative assistant at a car dealer.
“She’s a very nice Narragansett,” Sheri said. “They are a desirable breed out of Rhode Island. Her father was champion turkey at the Iowa City show last fall. We think she’s worth $50.”
The Steeses were in Elkhorn on Saturday for the Walworth County 4-H Fur and Feather Small Animal Swap Meet. Proceeds from the event help provide $1,000 scholarships to Walworth County 4-H members who are seniors in high school or one year out of high school and are planning to continue their educations.
The scholarships are awarded every year at the Walworth County Fair. Last year, six scholarships were awarded. Proceeds from the swap meet, vendor fees, general admission and food sales help fund the scholarships.
The annual swap meet is a favorite of the Steeses.
“It’s a small to medium meet, and it is very well run,” Floyd said. “We like it because it attracts a lot of buyers. It’s well worth it for us to come here.”
The Steeses’ prize Narragansett may not have sold, but other turkeys and Muscoby ducks found new homes.
As many as 75 volunteer 4-H parents and members help at the meet.
“It’s all for the kids,” said Betty Baerwald, a 4-H parent and leader. “It’s how we raise money for the scholarships.”
Baerwald and a group of volunteers were working in the kitchen selling food, hot chocolate and coffee to ward off the Saturday morning chill.
“We also have businesses in the community that help us out,” she said. “For example, the Piggly Wiggly in Delavan donated doughnuts. We sold about nine dozen this morning.”
For Brad Bilancia, owner of Brad’s Rustic Acres in Kenosha, the swap meet was a new experience. Bilancia sells goats for show and food—yes, food.
“Most people don’t know this, but goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world,” he said. “It’s not so much here in the United States, but in Europe and Asia, people eat a lot of goat.”
In addition to being replacement meat for beef and pork in countries where most people don’t eat that kind of meat, goats have distinct advantages over cattle, Bilancia said.
“Goats are easier to keep than cattle,” he said. “They are smaller, and they eat a much wider variety of food, not just hay. They eat just about anything, including brush.”
For some, goats represent food. For others, goats are pets and show animals.
“We have a show herd at our Hazelridge Acres farm in Richmond, Ill., just across the state line south of Lake Geneva,” Diane McPherson said. “We are getting ready for the Dairy Goat Grand National Show in Lakeland, Colo.”
The McPhersons sell goats for pets, dairy and meat.
“Goat meat is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world and especially in Hispanic and Greek cultures,” McPherson said. “It’s a leaner meat than chicken.”
No Walworth County event involving feathers would be complete without Dale Wheelock, who is considered the go-to turkey man in the county. His baby chick booth at the 4-H Fair is one of the most attended.
On Saturday, Wheelock was selling Narragansett chicks (called poults) and Pekin ducks “for pets or meat.” He’s been a part of the county poultry scene for many years.
“I’d say we’ve been doing the swap meet for about 15 years now,” he said. “It’s a good fundraiser for the fair sale and the scholarships.”