August 20, 2003

Since it’s inception three years ago, the 4-H Country Ham Contest at the Kentucky State Fair has grown by leaps and bounds and participation has more than tripled.

In the first year between 35 and 40 hams were entered. In the second year the number exceeded 80 ham and at the 2003 Fair, more than 180 youth cured hams at plants around the state in order to participate in the contest. Getting to the State Fair level is no short process.

“They have to be committed over an 8-month time period,” said Benjy Mikel, University of Kentucky Extension meat scientist. “This teaches the 4-Her responsibility and how to add value to meat.”

The idea for the contest came from Kentucky ham producers. Mikel said the producers wanted to make sure Kentucky has youth who understand how and why we produce country ham. The country ham industry still is relatively small in the state, but Mikel noted that it has great potential as a value-added product.

This year’s grand champion was Sarah Isom of Greenup County. In addition to displaying a ham, participants had to speak about their ham. Forty percent of the final score came from ham composition; the other 60 percent came from the speech. 

“It improves my public speaking ability,” said participant Miranda Terry. Terry had the grand champion ham in 2001 and 2002.


Editor: Aimee D. Heald  859-257-4736, ext. 267