Livestock at state fair a lot to wrangle

Scharidi Barber oversees more than 1,700 exhibitors, 8,500 farm animals

Cars move around the track of a roller coaster during the Arkansas State Fair at the fairgrounds in Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. See more photos at arkansasonline.com/1016fair/ (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)
Cars move around the track of a roller coaster during the Arkansas State Fair at the fairgrounds in Little Rock on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. See more photos at arkansasonline.com/1016fair/ (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)


With over 1,700 livestock exhibitors and more than 8,500 entries from rabbits, chickens, lambs, hogs, goats, cattle and horses, Arkansas State Fair Livestock Director Scharidi Barber has her hands full.

Barber -- in her first year as full-time livestock director after stepping in last year as a volunteer -- oversees a number of tasks. The livestock competitions, for instance, actually begin four days before the full State Fair because of the number of species, and rotations of dairy cattle, commercial heifers and breeding cattle are shown throughout the 10 days of the annual event.

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Over 1,000 hogs entered to compete Sunday night through Wednesday, and commercial poultry showed this past weekend, whereas exhibition poultry will start on Wednesday.

Barber worked for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture for 13 years as a poultry specialist and later became a superintendent of the fair.

She said the State Fair is "extremely fluid," with people and animals constantly moving in and out trying to meet deadlines and follow rules.


  Gallery: Arkansas State Fair


 

"Anytime you're dealing with something with a heartbeat, you know, things can always go awry," Barber said. "Then you've got the exhibitor side of it and the payment side of it, so there's a lot of nuts and bolts. At the end of the day, the sun's gonna come up tomorrow; a kid got to show their animal and we just hope they enjoyed the experience."

Barber added that the State Fair wants to see children come back with their own children and stay true to their motto "raising champions."

"If you're going to invest in the project, invest in the process," she said. "So I want people to learn about their projects and you know, really be in the depths of what their animals are for and why we raise them and get a sense of agriculture."

Barber's three sons have all shown livestock in competitions because "it's a family deal."

"This is a thing where you're gonna see parents feeding and helping kids with their animals," she said. "And you're gonna see their neighbors and people within their county, all helping each other. So it's just a family event, and that's what we love about it."

Barber hopes to have year-round agriculture educational programs so students who may not otherwise be exposed can have an opportunity to learn about the state's leading commodities.

As part of her duties as livestock director, Barber works alongside Taylor Moffett, president of the Arkansas FFA chapter. Moffett said her duties include supporting members at the State Fair and providing an "Ag in Action" center and a petting zoo.

The funds raised at the State Fair go toward the chapter's 16,000 members and provide scholarships.

"My favorite part about being in FFA and an officer is all the connections that you make," Moffett said. "You get to meet some really cool people ... to start with, my teammates. I get to meet some really cool people there, and we formed some really great relationships, just getting to know them. Also just interacting with our members and being a different kind of support system for them and having very unique relationships with these kids."


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