SUPER FARMERS

Brother and sister duo remark on success at Cass County Fair’s Super Farmer competition

bbashioum@demo-mo.comJuly 11, 2014 

Tabitha Hayes, Raymore, fills a bucket of corn as fast as she cans during last year’s Super Farmer competition while being judged by Mike Kircher. Hayes. With her brother, Brandon Cracraft, as her teammate, the siblings have won the contest each of the seven times they’ve competed in the fair tradition. The team will be looking to reclaim their title again this year on July 19.

PHOTOS BY BETHANY BASHIOUM/DEMOCRAT MISSOURIAN

Typical farmers gather their eggs to eat and to sell. Cass County’s Super Farmers smash them on their partner’s noggin.

Next Saturday, July 19, veteran Super Farmer Tabitha Hayes will hussle across the floor of the livestock barn at the Cass County Fair, racing against the clock -- and her competitors -- to scoop up a half dozen eggs and then carry them to the other side of the arena where her teammate, and 32-year-old brother, Brandon Cracraft, awaits to feel the crack of the shells against his head and goo from a raw egg run down his face, repeatedly.

As part of the event’s egg gathering challenge, Hayes, 30, will crack as many of the six eggs that it takes to find a single hard-boiled egg.

The contestant who finds the solid egg the quickest, wins that round of the competition.

Fortunately, the sticky mess that is created is all in the name of a fun time and good laugh at the annual Cass County Fair’s Super Farmer competition.

“Let’s get real. I love breaking eggs on his head,” Hayes said. “When else can I hit (him) with raw eggs and (he’ll) be OK with it?”

When there is a $100 grand prize up for grabs, of course.

“All the girls like the egg gathering,” said Cracraft, with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

The Super Farmer competition is one of the many events scheduled to take place during the fair next week, Tuesday, July 15, through Sunday, July, 20, in Pleasant Hill at the fairgrounds.

The friendly, yet competitive, challenge has been tradition for many years in Cass County, and at many fairs across the state. Some of the challenges are patterned from the tasks competitors complete at the state level, as well.

Event organizer Ed Hesse got involved with the Super Farmer competition 19 years ago while serving in his former role as president of the Cass County Farm Bureau.

He said that simply being a spectator of the competition can also provide an entertaining experience.

“It can be kind of humorous sometimes watching the competitors,” Hesse said. “There’s usually quite a bit of action involved.”

Hayes and Cracraft, who both are from Raymore, have competed as partners in the contest seven times in the last nine years as a brother-and-sister team. Injuries prevented them from competing during the years they missed.

The duo was initially recruited to participate in the contest on a whim years ago at the request of an individual looking for teams to compete.

“We had zero preparation,” Hayes said.

But to their astonishment, they won, and in each year since, the siblings have taken home the grand prize provided by the Cass County Farm Bureau.

Ten years later, now, the siblings agree that communication is their best asset.

“Since we are brother-sister, a lot of it is unspoken communication,” Hayes said. “We kinda know what the other is thinking or would expect.”

In the events that both teammates compete in the same task, Hayes and Cracraft strategize who will go first based on their strengths.

“We both have our strengths on the different events,” Hayes said.

“If it’s an event that he’s stronger at, we’ll have him go last so he can pick up the slack, and vice versa,” Hayes said.

The competition consists of a total of eight, timed relay-style challenges that test a person’s strategy and speed. Teammates consist of one man and one woman, but they do not have to be married, or even related, according to Hesse.

In addition to the egg gathering test, the other challenges include:

Bale stacking: Each team carries or throws eight bales of straw from a pile at one end of the arena to the other end, and restack them on the ground.

Three-legged team penning: A team will try to pen three animals in the fastest time using only three legs. All animals must circle a barrel before returning to the pen.

Nail driving: Each contestant drives three nails into a board.

Corn scoop: Each contestant carries a bucket and a small hand shovel to the opposite end of the arena, climbs into the bed of a pickup truck filled with corn, and fill their buckets with corn to the brim.

Stick horse barrel race: Each contestants ride a stick horse while they run a standard three-barrel pattern around the arena. Participants must complete the pattern correctly, and the leg of the stick horse must stay on the ground at all times.

Obstacle course: Teammates back a wagon through an obstacle course with their partner in tow. At the other end, teammates will change places and will back the wagon through the course again to the starting line.

Wife carry: Contestants carry a female through a short obstacle course.

Hesse doesn’t have a particular event that is his favorite. For Hayes and Cracraft, it’s hard to choose just one.

“They’re all amusing,” Hesse said.

Time penalties are applied when mistakes are made.

Hayes and Cracraft said there are stricter penalties if you mess up on the farm.

“If you do something wrong on a farm, you could lose a finger,” Cracraft said.

Participants receive cash prizes for first, second and third place finishes in each individual event, ranging from $10-25.

Points are then tallied from each challenge, and the team with the most then takes home the biggest prize at the end of the day.

“Who wins more often or not seems to be the people with the best strategy,” Hesse said.

Hayes and Cracraft said they typically use their winnings to treat their families to a supper after the event.

“A lot of time we usually end up at IHOP because they’re open late,” Hayes said. The dining choice benefits Cracraft because he especially enjoys breakfast-style food, he said.

Hayes and her sister-in-law, Cracraft’s wife, also purchase new dresses, and either a purse or wallet at the fair, with the cash prize.

Organizers say that they focus on keeping the activities consistent with the county’s rural history and agricultural roots, but the events are designed to give all participants a shot at winning whether they have farm experience or not.

Hesse said some of the events have changed over time for that reason.

“In the early years of this event, we had a wagon-backing contest and there was an unfair advantage with kids who were used to doing that on their farm,” Hesse said. “We’ve tried to eliminate some things that would give anyone an unfair advantage, to where everyone is on a leveled playing field.”

Hayes and Cracraft said that while you don’t have to be a farmer to participate, the skills, and the muscles, they’ve developed by doing chores on their late grandfather’s ranch over the years have been valuable to their success.

“There’s definitely a lot to be said for having grown up on a farm,” Cracraft said. “I think that’s where a lot our coordination comes from, too.”

The brother-sister duo will be looking to reclaim their title again at this year’s competition next Saturday.

Contestants must be between the ages 16 and 65 years old to participate.

“We’ve had both extremes before,” Hesse said. Some people think the younger ones have an unfair advantage. But sometimes, being slow and steady, and being wise, and having some strategy, has more to do with it than anything.”

Hayes and Cracraft do worry a bit as they’re getting older.

“I think that every year that we continue to win, it is more of a surprise than the year before because we do keep getting more out of shape,” Cracraft said.

Hayes agrees, “We don’t do near as much work that we used to stay in shape for it,” she said.

People interested in competing in the Super Farmer challenge are encouraged to register early. Participation is limited to 14 teams.

“Sometimes the newcomers do very well,” said Hesse, noting most contestants will often earn something from the $450 prize purse.

Entry forms can be obtained at www.pleasanthill.com/ccfair, or at the Pleasant Hill City Hall, 203 Paul St.

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