County fair animal sales break record

The Villages High School’s Karlee Dasher shows her steer in the 2023 Sumter County Fair Market Steer Show. Students and their agriculture organizations came away with a record-breaking $1.3 million in auction sales at this year’s fair.

The Sumter County Fair broke records in more ways than one this year. The annual event features livestock showings from local students who raise steer, swine and lambs through 4-H clubs or Future Farmers of America chapters at Sumter schools.

Local businesses had the chance to bid on these animals on the last day of the fair Saturday. In addition to making more in fair ticket sales than ever before at $125,588, fair board association president Erin Munz said students and their agriculture organizations came away with a record-breaking $1.3 million in auction sales.

“I am proud of all of the Sumter County Fair livestock exhibitors and all of the work they have put into their projects this year,” said Scott Woythaler, The Villages High School’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. “I am certain these exhibitors have learned many life lessons in these past months.”

Three Villages High School students won their class with their steers, including Daniel Barerra, Madison Strickland and Karlee Dasher.

Money from the auction sales go back to the exhibitors who showed their own animals, said Heather Chastain, The Villages Charter Middle School’s FFA advisor and agriculture teacher. Two students from The Villages Charter Middle School’s FFA chapter showed animals in the fair.

“Our students will use their earnings for many different things,” Chastain said. “Many save every penny. Others will purchase their project animal for next year, and some may purchase their first car.”

Students are responsible for a list of tasks to get the animals ready for the event, such as recording expenses and weight gain, then keeping them cared for during the fair. Chastain said many students took on the challenge of being exhibitors for the first time this year.

“They all did a phenomenal job,” Chastain said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my students stepping out and trying something new. The lessons learned are priceless.”

The Villages High School FFA chapter steer sold for around $17,000, and the The Villages Charter Middle School FFA would earn nearly $20,000 from the sale of its chapter steer.

Many of the buyers from the Sumter County Fair are local businesses. Rainey Construction purchased Villages High School’s FFA chapter steer, which placed second in his class.

Woythaler expressed gratitude for the fair board, sponsors, livestock buyers and others who supported a great year at the fair, including the family of Steve Munz, owner of Galaxy Home Solutions, and the family of Terry Yoder, chairman and CEO of the T&D Family of Companies.

“I would like to thank the Munz and Yoder families for all of their support since this program has started,” Woythaler said. “These two families do so much for the youth of Sumter County as well as the community abroad. I would (also) like to thank all of the Sumter County Fair board members. These folks spend countless hours throughout the year planning everything A to Z from the entertainment to the livestock shows and vendors, making sure they put on the best fair in Florida.”

South Sumter High School’s FFA chapter went home with $52,631.50 in sales from its two chapter steers and two chapter hogs.

“I am very excited about the chapter’s success,” said David Swartzfager, South Sumter High School’s agriculture teacher and one of its FFA advisors. “We have a budget for next year to include expanding animal science to include chapter goats and lambs and further our participation in the state fair, as well as jackpot shows throughout the year.”

Lenard Powell Inc., a curb company from Wildwood, purchased the senior chapter’s steer, and the remainder of chapter animals were purchased by Cow Hammock Ranch. The funds will support various projects like sending students to forestry camp and state and national FFA conventions.

“Our kids have been working hard for this,” said Patty Wells, agriculture teacher and South Sumter High School’s FFA advisor.

Wildwood Middle High School’s FFA chapters also had a successful year, bringing in around $56,000 from the sale of three chapter steers, three chapter pigs and two chapter lambs. The middle school chapter lamb was awarded Best Bred by Exhibitor and Skyler Weeks earned a first place in her class for her steer.

“All of our students did a wonderful job showing and presenting their animals,” said Gabby Landreth, Wildwood Middle High School’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.

Justin Hughes, one of the owners of Hughes Brothers Construction, purchased around six animals from the fair. The company has purchased from the Sumter County Fair for around eight years.

“(We buy) to support the youth in the county,” Hughes said. “Just trying to give back to the community. We are ranchers. We have a place in Oxford where we raise cattle, so we just love everything 4-H and FFA.”

Hughes also buys animals to support the programs that teach students valuable lessons.

“It shows them how to see their overhead and how to run a business ... and how to turn a profit,” Hughes said.

Hughes complimented the businesses and the fair board on another great year.

“I don’t see any fair get the support that the Sumter County kids get,” Hughes said.

Staff writer Garrett Shiflet can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5367, or