Pictured: A 4H participant shows her pig at the 2019 livestock show and auction at the Ventura County Fair. Photo submitted.
by Kimberly Rivers
On August 15, 805 Ag Kids will host an online livestock auction in place of the youth auction that normally takes place at the Ventura County Fair, which was canceled due to the pandemic.
Kids from any group (4H, Future Farmers of America, The Grange) or unaffiliated can enter the auction for a $20 fee. They will need to make a video showing just as they would a live show, walking their animal, setting their animal so the professional judges can see the quality of the animal. A professional auctioneer will run the live auction through VirtualStockShow.com.
“The Ventura County Fair was canceled. Basically the fair said they would not have the budget or staffing and could not have an auction on their property this year,” said Megan Hook of Somis. She co-founded 805 Ag Kids with Scott Toland earlier in the year, before the pandemic, but when the fair was canceled, stepping in to help with the youth livestock auction fit with the mission of the new organization. “We decided that we could help.”
In a normal year, about 500 kids from across Ventura County raise lambs, steer, pigs, turkeys, goats, chickens and rabbits to be shown and sold at the fair’s auction. The kids invest in the young animal and then are responsible for every aspect of its care. Raising the animal takes time and money. Kids hope for a profit when the animal is sold, which is usually saved for college and the following year’s animal.
“Kids put a lot of time and effort into raising these animals,” Hook said. “Before school and after school, cleaning pens, measuring out food to make sure the animal gains weight at a certain weight. They work with their animals.” She pointed out that it’s a considerable financial investment: the cost of the animal, feed, equipment. And not every family can support that. “There’s a lot that goes into the process. They learn a lot, and not just about the animal. They have to budget their money, learning about investing in something and reaping the reward of your hard work, but not always.”
Part of the aim of the online auction is to make sure families don’t have “extreme financial losses as a result of the fair being canceled,” Hook said.
“I was trying to figure out what the next step was to sell my animal,” said Tyler Hook, 14, who will be a freshman at Rio Mesa High School in the fall. He’s been raising and selling lambs at the auction for five years. With no auction, he would have had to find a buyer on his own, and is excited to have a virtual auction. “I think it will really help out all the kids this year.”
Tyler’s lamb is still maturing and growing. He’ll make his video right before the deadline, preparing in much the same way as he would for the fair auction. “I’ll keep practicing, working with him, walking him, setting him up to get the perfect video.”
He said raising lambs is “a lot of hard work…and a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of great people in 4H and around the fair.” He said a big part of it is “helping each other out.”
“805 Ag Kids started earlier this year. We put together this grassroots community group. We wanted to support the youth and their ag education and projects. Advocate for them at the fair board meetings and build a fund for no interest loans and scholarships for these kids,” explained Hook. “Not every family has the money to go buy a steer and start and hope they come out ahead. Some have to take out loans from family members just to get started. Hopefully, we can provide that support to those kids so they have the opportunity.”
She emphasized that the organization has no operating budget; everyone is helping as a volunteer and all donations go 100 percent to the kids. Funds received through direct donations will be split evenly among all the kids who participate, on top of anything they earn at the auction.
Hooks says that buyers that take possession of auctioned-off animals are responsible for contacting a local butcher to process it, but that the kids can continue to feed and care for the animal until a butcher is lined up. “Then they take [the meat] home for their freezer.”
Another option is for the buyer to give the animal back to the seller, who will then sell it at market rate on the regular livestock market (usually a much lower price). This allows the seller to get the auction buy price, plus the amount the animal is sold for on the open market. Buyers might also choose to donate the meat to Ventura County Food Share, a common practice in years past.
The 805 Ag Kids online auction will take place on Saturday, Aug. 15; a dedicated link for the auction will be provided as the date gets closer. Anyone can register to be a buyer online or donate at www.805agkids.com.