Along with several dozen of his 4-H and FFA counterparts across Placer County, Jacob Graves of the Del Oro High School FFA spent Saturday afternoon eagerly watching a computer or phone screen.
With approximately 80 exhibitors selling projects as large as a steer and as small as a dozen eggs, the Placer County Fair’s Virtual Junior Livestock Auction raised roughly $150,000. And while Placer County Fair staff and advisors with the agriculture programs considered Saturday’s inaugural virtual auction a “success,”17-year-old Graves remembers the sense of uncertainty felt only weeks earlier.
“I was afraid I was going to be unable to sell and be out about $400 to $500,” Graves said of his lamb “Bandit,” which he bought in March. “I thought when the time came, I’d have to pay to butcher him myself and take care of those costs. I’m so happy the Placer County Fair figured out how to help us kids sell their animals, earn some money and give us that experience.”
While the Virtual Junior Livestock Auction may have been a new experience for Graves, he noted the overall process didn’t change much. As Graves emphasized, Bandit still needed to be fed, make weight and there were still practice sessions for physically showing the animal just like other years.
For Regina Dvorak, Del Oro FFA advisor, there was an immediate sense of urgency from her kids as the COVID-19 public health crisis shuttered schools and businesses. Given the amount of “toughness” it takes to raise animals, Dvorak said the 4-H and FFA community is built to overcome obstacles.
“These kids are amazingly resilient and upbeat,” Dvorak said. “Given they had the right support, they were able to overcome this. The Placer County Fair and the Junior Livestock Support Committee did such an amazing job fighting for these kids and gave them this opportunity to both sell their animal and learn about overcoming adversity. I’m really grateful for these kids’ sake.”
Dvorak said the overall takeaway from this year’s fair season emphasized the concept of community and the need to support those around you. While Dvorak understands there was a sense of disappointment because kids were unable to show in a traditional auction, she notes how there is a larger sense of appreciation.
As mentioned in an earlier interview with Stephanie Maul, assistant leader with the Mt. Pleasant 4-H and who frequently assists with farm projects at Lincoln High School, the virtual auction not only allows students to sell their project, but fulfills what they see as a “rite of passage.”
According to Placer County Fair Livestock Coordinator Karlee Long, the number of kids selling projects in the Virtual Junior Livestock Auction was less than last year because of those opting to sell privately. And while the overall funds raised were about $75,000 less than last year, Long noted each kid earned more per pound than in 2019.
In addition to bids from several new buyers, Long mentioned there was added enthusiasm from buyers to help kids who traversed an unprecedented path to the auction.
The Placer County Fair Junior Livestock Auction has been developed to educate the exhibitors in livestock marketing. This sale is made up of market animals shown in the 4-H and FFA market show. These animals are owned, raised, fed and shown by the young people in these organizations.