Yesterday I sat beside my daughter in the bleachers at the Gold Country Fair, Jr. Livestock Auction. The Jr. Livestock Auction is the culmination of the project year for youth largely associated with 4-H and FFA. Their projects consisted of selecting and raising animals for meat production; training for the show ring; grooming and marketing their animals. The sale is the final step in the process. Buyers at the Auction include parents, families and friends; but even more are small businesses from the community (and a few larger businesses). Buyers represented yesterday included small contractors from many trades; shop owners; truckers; tire stores; agriculture enterprises and much more. It was a real cross section of the community. Even more importantly many of these buyers purchased multiple animals and for many this was not their first year as a buyer. In several instances it was their second or third DECADE. That is community support! You begin to realize how remarkable this community support is when you are told at the beginning of the sale that the commercial market price for a lamb (for example) is $.85 per lb; and then you watch lamb after lamb sell for prices in excess of $2.50 per lb, with some going for $7.50 per lb! (Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champions were substantially higher!)
These prices represent the community’s desire to support its hard working youth, but it is also a reflection of the sellers’ marketing efforts. Every year the young project members approach businesses and ask for their support. They explain the projects; how the auction works; and where needed they help to match up multiple buyers who may not have a enough money to purchase an entire animal (steers weigh 1200 lbs!). Project Leaders and High School Agricultural Instructors work with the members on all of this as well.
My father was a small building contractor when I was growing up. He couldn’t afford to purchase many animals at the auction; but he was able to work with his business contacts to put together a pool that let him purchase a number of animals each year. Some times I benefited, but many times I had arranged for my own buyers, and Dad was able to use the money for others. When my children were showing livestock, I was able to follow my Dad’s lead and use business contacts to collect a number of buyers each year to purchase multiple animals, not always from my own children.
Returning to my daughter, Amy, sitting with her yesterday was a pleasure. Amy is an adult now and had returned to the Auction Ring as a BUYER. Yesterday I had the privilege of watching her bid at her first livestock auction. Amy had suggested to her employer, Grange Restaurant, in Sacramento, that they support a young person at the auction. Since they hadn’t tried it before they authorized her to buy one lamb for the restaurant; and asked her to bid. Amy contacted one of the high school Agricultural Instructors to identify a deserving student who might need a supportive buyer. The Ag Instructor had been in both 4-H and FFA with Amy when they were members, and in traditional fashion she recommended a student who had worked hard and was presenting a quality animal, but due to personal circumstances needed a supportive buyer. Perfect match for Amy and the Grange Restaurant. Amy was able to successfully purchase the desired lamb for $4.50 per lb. A nice return for the FFA student and within Amy’s budget.
We are proud of the community members who year after year support this activity. They are building a spirit of community, and are participating in educating our youth in hard work, community involvement and the importance of agriculture in our lives. Not everyone needs to work in an agricultural field to recognize and contribute to the importance of agriculture in our lives. In our family we have three generations who have been able to contribute to this process, and we are proud of that effort.