Jensen family turns out the purples
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
It's been a long time since Mike and Amy Jensen have attended the Kansas State Fair. Their teenage children never have been there.
All four of the Jensens probably will make at least one trip to Hutchinson to attend the 2012 state fair in September, and the event's 100th birthday won't be the only reason for the Hays family to celebrate.
Elissa Jensen, 15, and her younger brother, Ethan, 13, earned several purple state-fair ribbons between them Tuesday at the Ellis County Fair. That qualifies the siblings to take those exhibits to the state fair, set for Sept. 7 to 16.
After Elissa and Ethan earned top honors for their honey-bee projects in the Schenk Building, the family made its way down to the small animal barn to learn Ethan had earned purple ribbons for both his chicken and his duck in the poultry competition.
Each sibling also went home with a grand champion ribbon.
Elissa, who also was named reserve grand champion in the junior girls' clothing buymanship competition at last week's 4-H fashion revue, on Tuesday was judged grand champion in the educational poster division for her project on honey extraction from bee hives.
Ethan received grand champion on his jar of honey and reserve grand champion recognition for the poster on the family beekeeping business.
"Yeah, we did have a good day," Amy Jensen admitted that evening. "Elissa said, 'We have to go (to the state fair) now.' "
The Jensens hadn't given the state fair much thought. They were happy having their children participate on the local level, in a variety of areas.
Elissa and Ethan, who have had different projects nearly ever year, are third-generation members of the Buckeye Junior Farmers club.
Their dad and their grandfather, Ray Jensen, grew up participating in that club. And their mom also was in 4-H in Russell County as a youngster.
"We haven't excelled in any specific things," Amy said of her children's six years in 4-H. "We have just tried a lot of different projects over the years. Now we're going to have to excel in honey, I guess."
Ironically, it's the first year for both projects, poultry and honey, for the Jensens.
The family started its beekeeping business last spring when Mike came across a man who wanted to retire and sell his bee-hive containers.
Mike thought it would be something the family could do together.
Then, Amy said, "When we got honey in the spring, we were excited that we could take honey to the fair."
Amy said she noticed in the fair book there were different divisions for honey and bee science, so both their children decided to make posters about the family business.
Susan Schlichting, 4-H Extension agent for Ellis County, said it was the first time she has seen such a project at the Ellis County Fair in her 10 years in Hays.
"It's healthy and wholesome and something from this part of the world," said Schlichting, who knew several beekeeping families during her days in South Dakota before she came to Hays.
"And," Schlichting added, "it can be a great little sideline business."
So far, it has been a fun family activity, Amy said.
"We do it as a family," she said. "The kids go check the hives. We only have two (beekeeping) suits, so two of us do it at a time."