Some might say the Dean Blackhurst family owes its success to "udders," but it's really a lot more than that.
Dean and Chris and their nine children of Lindon, Utah County, were busy at the Utah State Fair Wednesday, where several family members were exhibiting livestock.They are dairy farmers who use the 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs and the fair to good advantage.
"The 4-H program is a good program. It teaches responsibility, leadership and many other things that our children would never have an opportunity to learn in the classroom at school," said the father, who watched as several of his youngsters prepared their animals for exhibit at the 132nd annual State Fair.
The Blackhurst family milks about 125 cows and also has about 100 young heifers and calves.
"My kids milk the cows every morning and night. I hire some part-time help, but most of the milking is done by my kids, who also do the feeding and take care of other work. They basically get involved in every facet of the dairy operation. We also let the kids make decisions about breeding."
Some of the Blackhurst children have determined that they will continue in the dairy business as they grow older, while others have different goals.
Dairying means "a lot of hard work and not a lot of income. But it's worth it if you enjoy what you're doing," said Sheila, 15, who is enrolled in her first year of FFA.
"Our kids have to do a lot of work and share a lot of responsibility because of the animals, but they don't seem to resent it. When your kids come out with a good feeling about their work you know you've made some good decisions. That is rewarding as a parent," said Blackhurst, 38, whose own father, Paul, Pleasant Grove, got him started as a youth in 4-H.
All the Blackhurst children - twins Sheila and Shawna, 15; twins Jeremy and Jennifer, 13; Charles, 11; Anne-Marie, 10; Lisa, 7; Cindy, 5; and Scott, 3, - are involved in some way.
"When I turned 8 years old my Dad gave me my own cow. She has had three calves since then," said Shawna. Some of the youngsters even helped deliver a new Jersey calf born at 11 p.m. Monday at the fair.
Sheila, described by her mom as a "real animal lover in the family," said she couldn't remember a year when she and her brothers and sisters weren't at the fair.
"It takes a lot of work, but you feel good when the show's all over," Sheila said. Some of the awards won by the family include grand and reserve champion Jerseys in the 4-H and FFA sections of the show, first- and second-place among junior 2-year-olds, first place in 3-year-olds and third place for 4-year-old animals.
Blue or other ribbons are always coveted because they mean money at the fair, but there are many other benefits. One is a spirit of family unity gained in working together.
"Our whole family is involved in planning for and working together at the fair," said Blackhurst.
All the Blackhurst children have a 4-H record-keeping book in which they record all expenses for their animals, including feeding, bedding, veterinary, fair entrance, halters, brushes and other show equipment costs. They also keep track of prize money.
The fair, which continues through Sunday, includes a smorgasbord of animal, craft, fine arts, flower, food and other exhibits.