Val June Schafer (right) and granddaughter spend time together at the St. Joseph County Fair. For Schafer, the week of the fair is the happiest week of the year. She spends time with family and 4-H friends while volunteering to help around the fairgrounds.
Val June Schafer (right) and granddaughter spend time together at the St. Joseph County Fair. For Schafer, the week of the fair is the happiest week of the year. She spends time with family and 4-H friends while volunteering to help around the fairgrounds.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Val June Schafer is an 88-year old 4-Her who has never stopped believing in the program.

Schafer is so dedicated to 4-H that she works five days a week at Lowe’s to save up what she calls “play money.” When the livestock shows roll around, she drives up the prices on 4-H animals that may not be receiving many bids.

“I love the kids and the way they can learn,” she said. “They have skills that they can use after 4-H. I love how they learn to do their best and get along with people. How they help each other. To me, 4-H is one of the best organizations that a boy or girl could ever belong to.”

This summer Schafer is one of six volunteers in Indiana being recognized for 50 years or more of service.

She was a 10-year 4-Her herself and did sewing and cooking and showed hogs. She won grand champion barrow for four years in a row.

Today she finds being involved with 4-H just as rewarding as the day she started.

“I love the fact that I can watch boys and girls grow as they learn,” Schafer said. “And then they grow up and get married and have their families, and they bring them back. It’s a continuum. As I walk through the fairgrounds, they call me Grandma Schafer.”

Key To Success

When it comes to 4-H, there are many approaches to success. From entering one project each summer to trying as many as possible, families have different strategies.

Schafer said that they key is family support.

“4-H is a family thing,” she said. “It’s something the family can be involved in together.”

The Reed family agreed that 4-H is all about family ties.

“Teamwork and family are the keys,” said Julia Reed, a 4-H parent. “It’s a wonderful experience to get to meet new friends. It’s about sharing with the public what it’s like (to farm).”

Fair Legacy

Schafer remembers when the St. Joseph County Fair was held in Lakeville, rather than South Bend.

U.S. 31 was roped off for the hog show, and the fair happened right along the highway, she said. Area farmers came together to donate the piece of land that the fair sits on today.

The fair has left its mark on many lives since then. With more than 10,000 projects being judged and opportunities to learn throughout the fair, many memories have been made over the years.

For 4-Hers such as Schafer, it’s more than just a fair. It’s a home.