August 12, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman

After months of rubbing salt and sugar, washing, smoking and trimming, it was time for the smell test. Would it smell like something that begged to be eaten or would it be nothing to brag about?

That was the question of the day as 14 4-H members made the final determination on which of their two hams they would submit to the Kentucky State Fair competition. Hams will be judged Aug. 18.

Inside a room at Scott’s Country Hams in Muhlenberg County was two-time winner Mollie Dixon. This year she is hoping to bring home one of the overall champions. A grand champion is named in junior and senior divisions.

“I saw it in the 4-H newsletter and my parents wanted me to try it and I’ve really liked it,” she said. “It’s really interesting. I would have never thought how complicated curing meat was. Plus, I like giving speeches. It’s just a really fun thing to do.”

The finished product only accounts for 40 percent of the total 4-H country ham project, said Tommy Harrison, Muhlenberg County Extension agent for 4-H Youth Development. Participants also must give a presentation, which represents 60 percent of their score.

Garris Stroud, 10, will be sending his first ham to the state fair. He cured one last year but was too young to submit it for competition.

“It’s really fun to do it and to learn about how to do it and about the origin of why people did it in the first place,” he said.

Helping oversee the project is Leslie Scott, who also competes on a professional level. He said he enjoys the interaction with the youth but makes sure they do the work themselves; he’s only there to instruct them.

“4-H was so good to me,” Scott said. “It’s where I started my beef herd, and the University of Kentucky and the Cooperative Extension Service helped me get this business started, so I thought I needed to give something back. Life’s been good to me.”

Scott also noted the youth helped to get him out of the doldrums after heart surgery several years ago.

Harrison said this is the third year that Muhlenberg County has participated in the country ham project, which is one of the newer state 4-H competitions. There are 11 youth from Muhlenberg County and three from Butler County under Scott’s instruction this year.

“They are learning a new skill plus learning about a very old tradition,” Harrison said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”


Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278

Contact: Tommy Harrison, 270-338-3124