The Mid-State Fair Paso Robles Pavilion bustled with blue-jacketed teens cane herding hogs to and from rows and rows of pens and green clover tie-wearing 4-H members tending to their lambs, heifers and steers, some laying in the straw, hugging their animals and saying their last goodbyes. The Junior Livestock Auction last Saturday brought in an unofficial total of $2,188,063 for 850 animals without add-ons, according to fair officials, which beats last year’s totals by about $92,000.
Jack Gearhart, an Atascadero High School senior and Future Farmers of America member, was pleased with his performance at the auction, earning $9 per pound for his cross-bred, mild-tempered pig Reginald. He plans to put his earnings right back into showing.
“It’s my first year doing a pig,” he said. “I normally show lambs. It’s pretty interesting. I got a pretty good deal on him.”
Gearhart said pigs are a lot like dogs because they’re good listeners and easy to train.
“He’s a pretty mild-tempered, good pig, definitely listens to the whip, definitely moves around,” he said. “I hardly have to touch him because he does so good.”
Gearhart will stay with FFA another year and try beef cattle. So far he’s cared for 17 lambs, a goat, and one pig, and he’d like to show every animal by the time he’s finished with the program. As for his future, he said, “I’d like to major in ag/business and minor in ag/communication, so I hope to get some kind of job after that.”
Gearhart’s father teaches journalism in the Agriculture department at Cal Poly, and his older brother Hayden was in FFA and 4-H for many years. Jack said with the foundation’s help he was able to get a dollar more per pound on his pig, which is a better price from his brother’s time in FFA.
Some of the stand-out sales were Pozo 4-H member Hayden Taylor’s Reserved Grand Champion Heifer, bought by K-6 Ranch for $13,500; Atascadero FFA member Russell Whitaker pulled in $36 per pound for his Reserved Grand Champion Hog from Certis, Mission Ranches and Holaday Seed; Paso Robles 4-H member Emma Wiest earned $15 per pound from Boneso Brothers Construction for her Grand Champion Lamb; Templeton FFA member Kaci Walker’s Reserved Grand Champion Lamb was bought by Farm Credit West for $15 per pound; and Atascadero FFA member Wyatt DeBusk won $7 per pound from Nino’s Grill for his Grand Champion Steer.
Josh Jorgensen, age 12, has been in the Atascadero 4-H program for four years. His pig, Rico weighed 259 pounds and was awarded 10th place at market. Jorgensen said he started as a 30-pound piglet only six months ago. Rico grew to be a bit of a troublemaker, chewing on everything in sight, so Jorgensen was having one of the less difficult times parting with his curly-tailed buddy. He felt really good about his sale.
“I had a buyer,” he said smiling and holding on to his pink award certificate. “He wasn’t here, but I sold him!”
Loren Boggs, first year Paso Robles FFA member and Paso Robles High School Sophomore, was waiting for her turn to show her hog. She was feeling confident she would do well in the auction.
“I have a Hampshire cross pig that weighs 260 pounds,” she said. “His name is Gilbert. It’s a girl!” Loren giggled. “She’s a very good pig. I got first place in my market show for my class and then I got third in my breed.”
Her most memorable experience with FFA was first getting her pig, “They’re like a big puppy. They have their own personalities and they’re so nice.”
In the future, Boggs would like to become a first grade teacher.
Among FFA and 4-H’s unofficially reported successes were 87 sold heifers, totalling $445,000; 79 steers for $39,233; 178 lambs for $310,832; 447 hogs for $968,863; 48 meat goats for $58,909; four rabbit meat pens averaging $268 and totalling $4,300; and four poultry meat pens averaging $489 and totalling $7,825.
Joshua Newsome, a Paso Robles Sophomore and first year Paso FFA member, was pleased with his “weird” pig Mr. Waddles.
“I did pretty good,” Newsome said. “I got eight per pound. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but eight sounds good.”
Newsome said Mr. Waddles wasn’t exactly cooperating, but that the auction was a lot of fun. He looked over at his hog behind the gate, after leading it back to the pen.
“When he walks, he waddles,” Newsome said. “He eats everything. Shavings. Rocks. Shoes. Pants, Fingers…” he laughed, showing his braces. “Only kidding.”
Many of the FFA and 4-H youth mentioned their desires to pursue agriculture as a future career. For Joshua, he would like to become a ranching business owner.
“I’m going to go to Cal Poly, get a business degree and go from there,” he said.
FFA members politely walked around with trays of donuts and coffee to chairs and tables of attending buyers, judges and supportive parents at the early morning event. The open arena was ripe with the distinctive scent of a farm barn and rolling sound of the auctioneer’s bibbity-bobbity voice over the hot air, as ranchers and farmers leaned over the pens to inspect the youth’s hard work raising these project animals from little babies until now. The FFA and F-H youth were displaying how practiced they were in their showmanship during the evaluations, making sure their animals were well-groomed and sparkling, and the day went on with showings, sales, and goodbyes.
You may contact Reporter Beth Giuffre at [email protected]