August 15, 2002 | By: Kelley Orme, 4-H Junior Press Corps

Opening day visitors to 4-H Cloverville at the Kentucky State Fair saw 88 country 4-H hams being judged.

According to UK Extension meat specialist Benjy Mikel the number of hams has increased this year because the project is well-suited for a variety of 4-Hers.

“This is really an easy project for somebody that is not livestock oriented to get into with 4-H,” Mikel said.  “There are a lot of urban kids involved in this project.  We teach them all they need to about the process.  We have the commercial producers work with them and it’s an easy project to do.  They don’t have to be knowledgeable about this, nor is it time consuming.”

The 4-Her’s start out in February with two fresh hams.  They must pay 15 dollars for both hams. They go back about four times a year to do different things to the hams such as curing and smoking.  Then during the first week of August the 4-Hers are allowed to go back in and select the ham they want to bring to the state fair. 

The judging takes place at the state fair along with a required presentation.

“We bring in commercial producers who judge the hams and the students give a three to seven minute presentation on the curing process and usually talk about nutrition and the process they went through to prepare their ham,” said Mikel.

The 4-Her’s are divided into junior and senior divisions and their score is a total of their presentation and their ham’s appearance, leanness, aroma and conformation.  These are combined to come up with the Grand Champion and Reserve from both divisions.

All the hams come from a local supplier. Once the fresh hams are distributed to the youth the 4-Hers are paired with a country ham producer who helps mentor the 4-Her throughout the year.

“This is a wonderful way to get kids involved with 4-H,” said Mikel.  “It’s not like taking a steer and having to feed it every day.”

The event is sponsored by the Kentucky Country Ham Producers Association and the Excel Food Company which supplies all the hams. 

Youth who would like to get involved with this project may call Benjy Mikel at 859-257-7550.  You may also want to contact your local 4-H agent about starting a ham club.


Benjy Mikel, 859-257-7550