The Livermore chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) recently hosted its Junior Livestock Show and Auction at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.
Along with the traditional auctioning of livestock, the show also offered students the opportunity to demonstrate their showmanship skills and exhibit their animals.
Students participating in the show and auction can choose to show cattle, hogs, lambs or goats. During the show, they display their animals to the judges and are rated on both the quality of the animal and their ability to present the animal. A Showman Champion is chosen for each species, then the species champions compete for the FFA Master Showman Award.
This year’s award went to 16-year-old Joe Hutchinson, president of the Livermore FFA.
“It’s a special experience,” Joe said. “Meeting people and all the new experiences I have had at FFA is something I really enjoy, and that’s why I keep coming back. It’s so much fun to exhibit your project that you have been working on for months and seeing all our friends after the long year with COVID-19 was really a fun time.”
FFA students purchase their animal at the beginning of the year, then care for it and practice their showing techniques until the auction. They’re allowed to keep the revenue earned from the sale of the animal. Paige Fowler said most students save their money for college or put it toward their next FFA project.
This was Paige’s first year showing steers with FFA, and she said the show went well for her. Even though she does not come from an agricultural background, she found her own place and plenty of new friends. The strategies she learned in 4H served her well when it came time to show animals with FFA.
“There are certain ways you are supposed to show each animal, based on the species,” Paige explained. “So you have to work with your animal throughout the year to set up and train them.”
Lori Porter, longtime volunteer, said this year’s event was a big improvement over the virtual show held last year.
“The auction was a huge success,” said Porter. “The support the kids got from the community — the people who came out — everyone was happy we were in person, and their support was tremendous. Most of the students are there for the experience of being in person with their friends and showing off their animals and last year was just rough having to do it virtually.”
Porter’s son, 17-year-old Joseph Porter, has been part of the Livermore FFA since he began attending Livermore High School three years ago. He currently serves as the vice president of the chapter and said FFA has been a great part of his time at Livermore High.
“My dad has been raising cattle since he was little, and my mom’s family raises sheep, so I always knew I was going to be involved in FFA,” Joseph said, noting that his grandfather was president of the chapter in the 1950s. “It is a great program and allowed me to meet tons of new people and make connections throughout California. It's a great extracurricular, awesome program.”
Students in Livermore and Granada high schools who participate in the FFA program are supervised by agricultural teachers and FFA advisors. Joe McNealy is one of the mentors in the program. As a graduate of both Livermore High School and the Livermore FFA, he said he enjoys passing on the tradition of agriculture in the Livermore Valley and teaching students important life skills.
“The auction is a great opportunity for buyers to buy animals that are really good quality meat, and it’s an opportunity to help the exhibitors out,” McNealy said. “We are a unique program in itself because the students are taking a risk – they are investing in a livestock project and having the opportunity to manage it, keep records of it, market themselves and then have the opportunity to sell it at auction and make money.”