Baker County Fair season is a busy time for Eugene and Christine Hawes.
Little wonder, then, that the couple was named Fair Family of the Year for 2018.
The Haweses were honored for their work with the 4-H Leadership Association, Oregon Farm Bureau and Eugene’s service as the swine superintendent at the Fair for the past six years.
Between the two of them, Eugene and Christine have also held positions as a youth livestock judge, a rabbit judge, a parent FFA adviser and participated in the FFA tractor contests. Their involvement continues with the Hawes family’s presence at the Fair and with other community events.
“I come from a family that’s been involved for years,” said Eugene, who is the facility operations manager for the Baker City Church of the Nazarene.
A fifth-generation rancher, Eugene grew up on a cattle ranch and ran his own 80 acres for 10 years. There came a point, though, when he either “had to get bigger or get out,” he said.
He then started Eugene Hawes Construction and built farm and ranch fences for 14 years.
He said he took the job at the church when he “got tired of talking to fence posts.”
Christine, who is the business manager for the Baker County Library, also serves as the treasurer for the Nazarene church, the Oregon Farm Bureau and the Baker County 4-H Association.
The couple, married for 23 years, have four children between them: Jesse, 35; Keeta, 30; Ethan, 26; and Taylor, 21. Jesse, Keeta and Taylor have been involved in 4-H. Now, Jesse’s children are showing Boer goats and Keeta’s oldest daughter is showing pigs.
“She thinks it’s cool to be out in the barn with Grandpa,” Christine said of her granddaughter, Isabell.
Christine said one of the reasons she gets excited around Fair time is because of the time she and Eugene spend with their grandkids.
“We head to the Fair at zero dark thirty with the kids and they have to muck out the stalls and get set up and they love it,” Christine said.
She said that every year during the Fair she and Eugene see kids showing up to get ready at 6 a.m. even though the fair doesn’t open until 7.
In addition to his work with the Baker County Fair, Eugene has also helped for the past decade with the Field to Fork program, the annual event for local schools where students learn about how their food is produced.
Eugene talks with students about how crops are harvested, and the technology and equipment that make farms and ranches more efficient.
In talking about his family’s commitment to the Fair, Eugene spoke of how kids benefit from raising and showing livestock from a young age. He said the experience teaches kids how to care for animals, and it instills ethics and leadership skills. They also learn about the risks associated with ranching.
He recalled a year when, five days before a competition, their son’s pig came up with a swollen foot after it stepped on a nail. Eugene said his son was disappointed when he had to show his backup pig instead.
“I don’t think there’s a better way for kids to see what life has in store for them,” Eugene said.
He recalled the kids buying their first pig for $50 although the cost has steadily risen since. He said the family also had up to 18 goats at one point.
Although the Haweses sold their Hereford ranch in 2005, they still keep their passion for the industry alive through their participation in the Fair and other 4-H opportunities.
“When we got married, we thought we were going to be ranchers for the rest of our lives,” Christine said. “It’s still where our hearts are at.”
For Eugene, his involvement with the Baker County Farm Bureau for 28 years in addition to his work with 4-H and the Fair is all part of his commitment to continue the ranching lifestyle.
“Ag is our root,” he said. “You have to get involved if you want to see it continue. When we focus on ourselves, we’re not furthering our community. I like to give back.”
Eugene is also a member of the Baker County Search and Rescue team that handles night security at the Fairgrounds.
His grandparents started the family ranch about 150 years ago. Eugene said he likes to encourage his grandkids to stay involved in agriculture even though some of them live in the Boise metro area. He said the grandkids love to come out and help him with jobs such as changing irrigation lines.
He laughed about a time their granddaughter came inside with mud streaks all over her legs from pig noses when she was trying to move their food.
For Christine, who grew up in Oregon City, the Hereford ranch was quite an adjustment.
“We drove through and I said I’d never live in a place like this,” she said.
When Eugene’s parents retired and they sold their ranch, Eugene and Christine moved to a farm west of Baker City.