For Joshua Loomis, the Cortland County Junior Fair is his time to shine. Kids in the county’s 4-H clubs have been working on their youth building exhibits for the past year and this week their projects are on display along with ribbons from the judges.
Two shiny ribbons lie on the corner of Loomis’ project — one blue ‘Excellent’ rating ribbon and one purple showing he qualifies to advance to the New York State Fair competition in summer 2022.
Through the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the 4-H clubs give kids the opportunity to explore their interests in not only agriculture and livestock, but also science, education, arts and crafts, healthy living and more.
“It allows the kids to expand their horizons and explore their own talents — find out what they can do, what they want to do, and it builds their confidence and ability to learn different things,” said 4-H team leader Rebecca Ireland-Perry.
For the past eight years, Loomis, a Fabius resident, has created a diorama farm, complete with real gravel and dirt under plastic cows and the tires of toy tractors. This is the third project to win him a purple ribbon — his ticket to the state fair.
“Growing up on a farm, I wanted to do something related to tractors — ever since I was a baby I’ve grown up on this equipment, sitting in a car seat in the tractors,” Loomis said. “Tractors have always been my thing.”
Younger kids came by the table to look at the model farm equipment, pointing at the tiny cows lined up in the red barn Loomis made from plywood.
“I learned that if you make your project appealing people are always very interested in taking a closer look,” Loomis said. Seeing the end result and people’s reactions is what he loves most about this annual project.
Loomis and his friend Matt DuVall, of Tully, first became interested in building farm model when they were in elementary school. An older boy in 4-H built a model for his project, and the boys were mesmerized.
“They’ve been doing this for years, expanding on it or changing something every year,” Ireland-Perry said.
The boys brought in their boards and buckets of material, building their projects right there in the fairground barn Monday, just in time for the judges to come by with their grading sheets.
Loomis said it took about an hour and a half to completely finish his farm model, and he plans to take as many photos as possible before they take it apart Saturday evening to store in the basement until next summer’s state fair.
“It’s definitely not as fancy as some people — some do fancy detail — but I try to make it as neat and as realistic as possible,” Loomis said.
This year, his project is taking a closer look at crop management and has a poster to go along with the diorama. It’s meant to be an educational exhibit for the public, Ireland-Perry said.
“Having something like this,” Loomis said, gesturing to the fairgrounds barn filled with kids’ projects, “it’s the best. Just being here and watching people walk in and be interested in our projects — that feels good.”