There is nothing quite like the San Benito County Fair. Attendees gorge on corn dogs, giant pretzels and mounds of cotton candy while enjoying attractions like rides, arts and crafts, truck and tractor pulls and barns full of animals.
Though there is one day of the fair that’s heart-wrenching: auction day. This is when 4-H and Future Farmers of America members say goodbye after a year of training, feeding,and caring for a livestock animal.
The Junior Livestock Auction is one of the popular events at the fair. Participant ages range from nine to 19 years old. There are kids who have been involved for many years and those going through their first experience of raising and selling an animal.
Buyers arrived on the morning of Oct. 6 to receive their number for bidding on pigs, goats, steer, rabbits, sheep and turkeys.
Cienega 4-H member Taryn Wright said raising animals for the fair has helped her gain responsibility.
“My most favorite part about showing is meeting people from all over the United States and sharing something that we have in common,” she said.
Although she doesn’t become highly attached to her animals, Wright said she has built special bonds with some that make it hard to let go.
“I truly can’t imagine my life without being involved in the livestock industry,” she said.
Not everyone does a market project in 4-H and FFA. Some participants raise breeding stock or show animals that are more like pets. There are also 4-H programs that don’t involve animals at all—but learning to sell an animal can teach important lessons, too.
Wright said it’s important to teach the public about agriculture.
“It’s vital to stress the fact that we give these animals the best life possible and they are doing their jobs by becoming market animals so they can feed the world,” she said.
Hollister FFA member McKenna Wood said raising animals has allowed her to partake in something that not everyone has the opportunity to experience. Through FFA she said she has been able to learn responsibility, hard work, dedication, budgeting, time management and being alongside growing animals.
“I love showing because animals they help and make you feel alive. They bring you nerves in the show ring, but also bring excitement with every step they make,” she said.
Ezra Robinson, a member of Sunnyslope 4-H, said he’s sad to see his goat Humpster go because it was like a pet to him.
“I like showing in 4-H because you learn a lot and you’re always making new friends,” he said.
Though the separation between owner and animal is difficult, young people are learning what it takes to raise an animal for food and then let it go.