Guest Column: United States Senator George Voinovich

The Ohio State Fair: Celebrating the Strength of Ohios Agricultural Families



If you’ve ever been to the Ohio State Fair, chances you’re well acquainted with the butter cow. First introduced in the early 1900s, the butter cow and other butter sculptures have become one of the iconic traditions of the State Fair. Last week, as the 156th Ohio State Fair kicked off, I was pleased to hear that the latest sculpture is a salute to Ohio’s dairy farmers – depicting a young girl tending to a cow with her father and grandfather.



It certainly is fitting that this year’s butter sculpture honors Ohio’s agriculture families. Without a doubt, the Ohio State Fair is a shining example of our deep agricultural roots, and a tribute to the families that provide us with everything from the freshest produce and meats, to polymers, plastics and fuel.



Every year I make a special trip to Columbus with my wife Janet, and our children and grandchildren for the fair. Some of my fondest memories come from the families and young people I’ve met through conducting the All-Ohio State Fair Choir and Band and visiting with the youth involved with our state’s outstanding 4-H and FFA programs. In fact, I am proud to have established the tradition of Ohio’s Governor camping overnight with families in the fairground’s livestock barns. I enjoyed this so much that I carried on the tradition with my grandchildren for a number of years as a U. S. Senator.



As Ohio’s “Ag Governor,” I loved serving as honorary auctioneer each year at the State Fair’s “Sale of Champions” – where winning market livestock are auctioned. Since its inception in 1968, the auction has become one of the most prestigious livestock auctions in the nation, with the sales going to the individual winner as well as scholarship funds, FFA, 4-H, and other fair competition winners.



As I worked to spur on bidders in the sale, I always enjoyed taking in the excitement and pride of the kids who had spent a tremendous amount of time preparing, sacrificing much and giving constant attention to their livestock. I also couldn’t help but notice the satisfaction and joy in the eyes of the parents who had no doubt been there every step along the way supporting their child.



It was moments like these that made me realize how special the State Fair and programs like 4-H and FFA are to building character and molding the youth of this nation into the kind of people I want leading this country someday. These experiences at the fair have given me even more respect for the care and dedication that Ohio’s farmers put into their work.



For generations, Ohio farmers have worked hard each and every day to provide for the well-being of their flocks and herds. For nearly every one of these farmers, animal care is a top priority.



That’s why I am supportive of the proposal that would amend Ohio’s Constitution and create a state Livestock Care Standards Board made up of Ohio farmers, veterinarians, scientists and food safety experts. Like regulating bodies in many other fields, this board will ensure that those who are the most knowledgeable on livestock care and poultry are setting guidelines and enforcing regulations.



In short, this board will protect the availability of affordable, nutritious and locally produced food, and guarantee that Ohioans can rest assured that the livestock and poultry in our state is cared for in a manner that is safe and humane.



In November, Ohio voters will be asked to approve this proposal. In the coming months I plan to help raise awareness on this issue to show Ohioans that this plan is good for farmers, livestock and consumers.



As the Ohio State Fair reminds us every year, we are blessed in Ohio to have such a strong agriculture community. I hope you will join me in honoring them by attending the Ohio State Fair – which runs from July 29 – August 9. Enjoy the entertainment, the exciting rides, and the wonderful food (I hear that deep-fried Buckeyes are new this year) – but also be sure to check out the exhibit halls, livestock buildings, and, of course, the butter sculpture. You will leave with a greater appreciation for the agriculture families that are working hard to lead Ohio into a brighter tomorrow.