Pictured: Tyler Hook with the lamb he raised at the 2019 Youth Livestock Show and Auction at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Photo submitted.  

by Kimberly Rivers

805 Ag Kids is hoping the Board of the Ventura County Fairgrounds will allow the nonprofit organization to host the show portion of the 2021 Invitational Youth Livestock Show and Auction in person at the fairgrounds in August. 

“If it is safe to do so . . . That’s what we’re hoping,” said Megan Hook, president of 805 Ag Kids and a parent of an auction participant. 

805 Ag Kids formed last year to ensure that the 146-year legacy of the youth livestock auction continues. The nonprofit’s mission is to support the next generation of agricultural professionals in Ventura County.

The show portion, slated to take place Aug. 2-6, would involve judges viewing the participants handling their animals and rating the animals on market readiness. Participants receive buckle awards for champion and reserve champion in the various classes. For an online version, the participants would submit videos . . . but Hook noted that an in-person event would be preferable. 

KIM LEACH LIVESTOCK PROJECT SCHOLARSHIP | The Toland Group is offering five $1,000 livestock project scholarships available to show/auction participants ages 10-19 who have completed at least one previous year of a fair/livestock animal project and who are entering in the 2021 event. The scholarship is in memory of Kim Leach, the former competitive exhibits manager at the Ventura County Fair, who passed away last year. The entry period is Aug. 1-30 and applicants must write an essay of at least 600 words in response to, “What I have learned from raising an animal for the fair.” Details and application instructions are online at www.805AgKids.com/scholarships/kim-leach#. Pictured: Elizabeth Fernandez, a member of Future Farmers of America with her steer at the Youth Livestock Show and Auction at the Ventura County Fair. Photo submitted. 

Hook said that 805 Ag Kids reached out to the board of the fairgrounds as well as some private ranches and other organizations that might be able to host the show, but the fairgrounds are the preferred location. 

“We would like that for the kids,” she said. “They need a sense of normalcy.” She added that talks with the fair board are “ongoing.” 

In a March 23 tweet, the Ventura County Fair Board announced that the fair would not take place again his year. 

“It was a budget decision discussed and voted upon in November at our regular board meeting,” said Leslie Cornejo, board president, responding via email to the Ventura County Reporter. “Our budget process did a several month ‘deep dive’ analysis with a state consultant to make sure we are keeping the fairground viable long term. The fair was never calendared for 2021, so I guess you could technically say it wasn’t canceled.” 

On the Nov. 24, 2020 agenda, the 2020-21 budget was listed as a “possible action” but the agenda did not call out any action specifically regarding the fair or livestock auction taking place. Fair boards are state agencies under the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and receive fiscal and policy oversight through the Division of Marketing Services within the CDFA.

According to Cornejo, “The budget approved in November was the most optimistic of three options presented, even though it still didn’t include the fair, because it estimated some opening up for gatherings towards the end of the year. The board felt it was the most reasonable expectation in a world of unknowns and no guarantees.”

Cornejo said Barbara Quaid, the CEO of the fairgrounds, “confirmed we would not be in a position to run the auction” in 2021, but added that the fair board is preparing for “some full-on strategic planning for next year so that we can properly staff and gear up for a great fair in 2022.” 

According to Hook, however, for 2021, 805 Ag Kids can “do all the work. They don’t need to staff it at all. We will put up the pens. We have an amazing group of volunteers. Families will chip in. We are ready and willing, we just need the OK.”

Raising animals for auction is like running a business. There are the up-front costs of the initial purchase, as well as feed, care and veterinary visits.The kids track expenses, and having solid sale prices at the county fair auction ensures they come out ahead. For many, it’s how they earn money for college. The fair’s cancellation two years in a row has made it harder for those that raise livestock to recoup costs.

Hook said that 805 Ag Kids will decide on an in-person or online auction by May 31, based on whether a facility can host the live event. That deadline is determined by logistics: An in-person show entails various requirements, including travel and accommodations for expert judges, some of whom would come here from out of state.

2021 Virtual auction experience improved

In the wake of the pandemic and the fair’s cancellation, Hook said it was a “scramble” to ensure there was any kind of auction for the kids in 2020. 

The fair board organized the online auction for Aug. 15, and 805 Ag Kids did the fundraising, communications and promotion for the event. Normally there are around 600 participants; last year there were just 230, and sale prices were considerably lower. Hook explained that that was to be expected with under eight weeks to prepare.

“It got the job done, but was not as successful as it could have been,” she said. “The prices were disappointing. It was a very difficult year.” 

This year, 805 Ag Kids is taking the lead, and has chosen a slightly different format. 

The 2020 platform was meant to mimic an in-person live auction; bidders were required to be at their computers on a certain day, watch the entire event and bid on the particular animal they were interested in. Hook feels this decreased participation. 

This year the auction will take place over three full days. Hook explained that this will allow buyers and bidders to log in at a time that is convenient for them and bid. It’s more akin to a silent auction experience. 

The auction will also include “add ons” for about two weeks after the auction portion closes. This will allow individuals and businesses to “specifically donate to individual kids,” essentially giving that participant a “bonus to add to whatever their sale price ends up being.” 

Registration runs April 1-30

Registration is required this year for the 2021 805 Ag Kids Invitational Junior Livestock Show and Auction. 

The youth livestock auction is for kids ages 9 to 19 and includes goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, lambs and two weight classes of steers. Many kids are members of groups like 4-H, Future Farmers of America or the Grange, but membership in a group is not required and all are welcome to register.

Community businesses are sponsoring the award buckles given for the champion animals in the livestock show.

Participants can enter one animal only; the fee is $32.50 per entry. The livestock market show takes place Aug. 2-6, with the auction Aug. 11-13.

Registration link and more information is online at 805AgKids.com. Questions can be directed to Megan Hook, megan@805AgKids.com, 805-469-0055.

All county fairground board members are appointed by the office of the California Governor. To be considered for an appointment, those interested can apply online at www.gov.ca.gov/application-for-appointment/.