In the words of co-founder LeeRoy Miller, “It began with a plow and grew into a family tradition.” Since 1948, the Butler Farm Show has grown more than some could have imagined.
A 1947 plowing contest, held on the Roe property in Meridian, was so well received they decided to do it again the next year, and the annual event blossomed from there.
“The original bylaws said the Farm Show was a way to bring farm and city people together and to better understand one another,” said Board Secretary Ken Metrick, a member of the Farm Show’s board of directors for 34 years. Having served on various committees, he is in charge of the exhibitor and vendor space.
During the event’s humble beginnings, its first “vendor” handed out free water bottles, lightbulbs were strung across the street, and no buildings were built until 1958. Metrick recalls how the community event has grown, even from what he personally remembers from the 1980s.
“I was on the board with LeeRoy Miller, who was one of the founders,” said Metrick. “I asked him one time, ‘Did you guys ever think it would be like this?’ He told me, ‘Never.’”
Farm Show President, Ken Laughlin, is also part of one of the many multi-generational families that have been involved for years.
“I was in 4-H and FFA in high school,” recalls Laughlin. “It’s something that’s in your blood. My grandfather was a casual farmer, and my wife and I were able to buy a farm in 1999. It was always a goal of ours.”
Laughlin’s children have been involved in 4-H from a young age, showing animals such as sheep, cattle, and pigs.
“We started off with rabbits,” said Laughlin. “After we bought the farm, we started other animal projects. My kids also did baking and craft projects, so they have really done it all.”
For Laughlin, other board members, and countless volunteers, the Farm Show is a year-long job.
“We’re already planning for two years out,” said Laughlin. “I have a great board of directors.”
For the 75th anniversary celebration, the board has invited dignitaries, such as Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, and has planned commemorative collectibles, a ceremony on Sunday, fireworks, and more during the 2023 Farm Show, August 7th through 12th.
Along with the midway, grange, and arts-and-crafts exhibits, animals are a main attraction. This important week is the 4-H Roundup, where kids can show their animals and participate in an auction at the end. According to Metrick, being involved in 4-H teaches children responsibility, leadership, and how to manage their own business.
“It’s all very educational,” said Metrick. “It also builds relationships and life-long friendships.”
For Metrick and Laughlin, they see the Farm Show as an educational opportunity for not only exhibitors, but also for the public.
“I’ll see kids come in, and it’s the first time they have seen a sheep or touched a steer,” said Laughlin. “We take it for granted as farmers, but a lot of kids and adults haven’t experienced agricultural life. It feels great to be able to give people that experience.”
For those who make the Farm Show week happen, seeing it all come together makes everything worth it.
“It’s exciting when it starts happening and people bring stuff in,” said Metrick. “Everybody works together.”
For the hundreds of participants and their families, seeing it come to fruition is what they work towards all year.
“We’ve come a long way in 30 years,” said Laughlin. “It’s a lifestyle for us.”