Jensen Comment is an intern in the OSU Extension office in Crook County.

In the wise words of Chris Ledoux, there’s “magic in the air” at the county fair. Growing up, my summers were filled with caramel corn, Saturday night rodeos, and livestock at the fairgrounds. When I first accepted this intern position in early March, I was excited to experience fair from a different perspective and assist in the facilitation of the event. As we all know, over the following weeks life as we knew it began to change. Realistically, I was very dubious of any county in the state successfully pulling off a county fair. While that was a project I had been particularly looking forward to, I was still prepared to work on any other tasks that might come up.

Looking back over the past several months, I can confidently attest to the aptitude and resilience of the Extension staff and faculty in central Oregon. Here in Crook County, the 4-H Program Coordinators and other office staff worked tirelessly to organize a safe and comprehensive county fair. There were countless moments of uncertainty, and the constant nagging knowledge that at any time another COVID-19 mandate could render fair an impossible feat.

One of the first steps towards fair was putting together “COVID kits” for each 4-H club. These contained hand sanitizer, COVID tracking sheets, tape to mark off six-foot increments, and face masks, along with an informational sheet explaining CDC guidelines for the coronavirus. After completing a COVID awareness training, club leaders could pick up these kits and then hold socially-distant club meetings to help everyone prepare for fair.

"COVID" kits for 4-H clubs included hand sanitizer, COVID tracking sheets, tape to mark off six-foot increments, and face masks, along with an informational sheet explaining CDC guidelines for the coronavirus.

4-H record-book checks were held via Zoom. Thanks to the help of volunteers from the community, we were able to interview each youth showing at fair and learn a little about their projects. Since the onset of the pandemic, I have continually been blown away by the technology available to us. The communication opportunities offered through Zoom and other software have been hugely helpful, and I can’t imagine getting through this summer without them.

Slowly but surely, everything began to come together. The 2020 Crook County Fair ran August 2-7. The expanded schedule allowed for lowered density and improved social distancing efforts. Over these six days, the youth were able to show their small animals, swine, sheep, goats, and beef. Each show was livestreamed, allowing friends and family to tune in to support the kids. The auction was virtual, displaying a picture of each market animal and allowing buyers to bid in real time. The following week, we had our static competitions and horse fair. Thanks to the efforts of the Extension staff, the fairgrounds board, the sales committee, and many others in the community, our fair was a success.

Crook County Fair 4-H swine judging
Swine judging at the Crook County Fair. Photo by Samara Rufener.

Working behind the scenes to help make fair happen was an opportunity I won’t soon forget. While the 2020 fair definitely stands apart from years past, we did our best to provide the 4-H and FFA youth with the best possible experience in light of the pandemic. The determination and perseverance I observed in Extension staff was truly inspiring. As I continue on through the upcoming months, I hope to maintain this motivated mindset and provide encouragement for others, as I have been supported during my time in this internship.

Jensen Comment
Photo by Lisa Dubisar

My name is Jensen Comment, and just a few days ago I started my internship with Oregon State University Extension Service. Born and raised in sunny central Oregon, I’ve always been a fan of the “Great Outdoors.” In my free time, I greatly enjoy hiking, going on road trips, country dancing, and fishing – my newest social-distancing hobby. Following my involvement in 4-H and FFA throughout middle and high school, I decided to continue my studies at Oregon State, with the ultimate goal of going into agriculture education.

A few weeks ago, I wrapped up my first year at OSU in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences. For sure, I wasn’t planning on spending the last third of my freshman year watching class lectures in my childhood bedroom, but I’m thankful for today’s technology that allowed me to continue learning from home. People always say that academics in college are pretty different than in high school, and they sure aren’t kidding. Although my academic performance at Oregon State got off to a bit of a rough start, I’m pleased to announce that I have been able to make honor roll the past two terms. After earning my first degree, I plan to continue on to graduate school for a master’s degree in agriculture education.

Jensen Comment in front of Weatherford Hall on the OSU campus
Jensen Comment poses in front of Weatherford Hall on the OSU campus. Photo by Terri Comment

While this summer is looking a little different than expected a few months back, I’m still very excited to be working as an intern at the OSU Extension office in Crook County. I’ll be honest –prior to starting here, I had a very limited understanding of the impact and outreach of Extension. My interest in Extension was initially piqued last summer when my manager at my high school job shared her experience with the organization. Both she and her mother had both spent years working for the Extension Service, and my supervisor couldn’t speak highly enough of the impact it had had on her life. While helping her learn more about her abilities and strengths, it also gave her countless opportunities to positively impact the community and truly make a difference.

Over the coming weeks, I will have the unique opportunity to learn from professionals with specialties in many different areas, ranging from public health to agronomy to livestock management. I will also be focusing on public communications and marketing, as well as Crook County 4-H. Even though my time here only began a few days ago, I have already had so many doors open for me. I can’t wait to see what opportunities present themselves over the summer!