The Junior Livestock Auction at this year’s San Benito County Fair saw an outpouring of funds and community support for young agriculturalists and the 261 animal projects that crossed the auction block on Oct. 1. The capstone of the auction was the 2022 Heritage Hog, selling for $314 a pound and raising $82,000 for the San Benito County Heritage Foundation.
The Heritage Hog is a scholarship and a fundraiser all in one. Interested 4-H and FFA members are evaluated based on their written application and interview, with the most qualified individual receiving a $1,000 scholarship and the honor of raising the next year’s Heritage Hog for the county fair.
This year’s recipient was Christine Gastello, an 18-year-old member of Cienega 4-H and a senior at Notre Dame High School. She has been showing hogs for years and was grateful to have the chance to contribute to the progress of the fairgrounds by raising the Heritage Hog.
“I wanted to apply because the fairgrounds are super important, especially to my childhood since I’ve been showing since I was nine,” said Gastello. “It’s been a huge part of my life and I wanted to give back.”
When the hog sells at the Junior Livestock Auction, the money raised goes back to the San Benito County Heritage Foundation to fund the next year’s scholarship and along with upgrades and maintenance of Bolado Park itself. Previous projects have included electrical work in the arena’s concession’s area, a new pump and pipeline for the on-site well, new sand for the arena and track, and renovation to the Oaks Room.
The student raising the hog bears none of the financial burden of taking care of the animal, as the Heritage Foundation purchases the hog and McAbee Feeds in Hollister supplies the feed.
“All the people on the Heritage Foundation board have been so supportive,” said Gastello. “There have been so many different people that have helped me out with this animal.”
Though the financial burden is lifted, the student selected takes on a major responsibility. Not only are they accountable for the health, well-being and handling of the animal, they are also tasked with attending meetings and various community events to speak on behalf of the Heritage Foundation.
“I think this was a great learning opportunity for me,” said Gastello. “I’ve always had to speak in front of crowds but with this I really had to go out into the community.”
Earning the chance to raise the Heritage Hog and represent the Foundation has been a rewarding experience for Gastello.
“I think this is one of the best possible ways to give back. It’s a complete honor to have this animal,” she said.
Gastello plans to head off to college after high school and intends to enter the nursing field.
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