Sheep, Chicks and Geese Scurry at the County Fair- page 4 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
(Maura McCarthy)

Sheep, Chicks and Geese Scurry at the County Fair

As photographer Dan Nelken has catalogued, the county fair is the place for family farms to showcase their prized livestock

Dan-Nelken-county-fairs-4

Chenango County Fair 2002
(Maura McCarthy)

Chenango County Fair 2002

As a newcomer to farm culture, Nelken faced a steep learning curve when it came to livestock. The judges’ rulings trained his eye to look more closely at a hog’s rump, a ewe’s wool or the shape of a cow’s teats.

He also learned how the animal’s behavior and appearance reflected the farmer, as in the case of Carl, above.

“I just loved his intensity, as opposed to Jonathan, who was intense but had an angelic look about him. Carl is a serious farmer type,” Nelken says. “The fact that the animal is willing to stand there without moving says something about Karl as well. This is something that you’d only know after watching dairy and beef competitions and seeing how the cows misbehave. These are powerful animals, and they are very skittish.”

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