Grant Hood comes strolling out of his house, headed toward the barn. He's a strapping 17-year-old, wearing jeans, T-shirt, dusty cowboy boots and, of course, a John Deere hat.
He looks every inch the farmer, but he's not, even though his family lives in a house in the country surrounded by fields. Several outbuildings suggest the homestead may have been a farm at one time.
But through the 4-H program, which Hood joined in third grade and has done every year since, he's been able to raise and show livestock and do hundreds of other projects. He will be showing goats, rabbits and chickens at this year's Allen County Fair, which begins Tuesday and runs through July 27 at the fairgrounds, 2726 Carroll Road.
Hood credits his grandfather with instilling in him a love of farm life. His grandparents farmed 40 acres and raised beef cattle. Hood got to ride on and eventually drive the farm machinery. He loved cutting, tedding and bailing hay the most.
“I love farming,” Hood said. “I'd do anything I can to work with tractors or livestock.”
4-H was a natural outlet for his interests. His mom, Heidi, a former 4-H queen, encouraged his involvement. She estimated he's done over 200 projects over the years.
“It's a family affair,” she said.
This year is Grant Hood's ninth year showing goats and poultry, and his seventh year showing rabbits.
He has to feed the goats two times a day and clip them and trim their hooves so they're in prime condition for the fair. Once at the fairgrounds, he gives them a bath. This year he's taking six goats. Shortly before they go into the ring for judging, “these guys get a little bit of hair gel to pretty up their legs,” he said.
Aside from the livestock, Hood is doing a woodworking project and several posters for the fair. He's the president of the 4-H junior leaders and liaison to the Allen County 4-H board and the Allen County Extension board.
In past years, he's done small engines, berries, foods, shooting sports and participated in the barbecue contest. “That's one of my favorites,” he said.
This year, he's helping other 4-Hers with projects.
“I don't have a job, not with all the stuff I do,” he said.
In the fall, Hood will be a senior at Heritage Junior-Senior High School, where he is FFA (Future Farmers of America) president.
The Hoods' home is a testament to all Grant and his brother's years in 4-H. Grant built the shelf that holds many of his trophies. An antique settee was refinished and reupholstered by Hood as a 4-H project one year. Model airplanes hang from the ceiling. One room is devoted entirely to 4-H projects.
One project near and dear to Hood's heart is the 1947 Model A John Deere tractor he and his brother bought. It's not a 4-H project this year, but Hood may enter it in the “Do Your Own Thing” category next year. “I plan on doing a full restoration on it,” he said.
Hood's efforts over the years have earned him the distinction of being one of two Top Achievers this year for Allen County 4-H. The title is given to the 4-Hers who score the most cumulative points for projects over the years.
The high point of his involvement in 4-H was in 2011 when one of his goats won best of breed, the highest award possible, at the State Fair. The event was tempered somewhat, however, that evening when the stage collapsed before the Sugarland concert.
Next year, will be Hood's last as a 4-H participant. He will miss it a lot. He's made many friends, gone to science camp at Purdue University and taken a trip to Washington D.C. through 4-H. He may volunteer as a leader.
Looking beyond high school and 4-H, he is considering becoming an electrician.