Ava Escobedo, and others in her show class, pictured with their lambs in a holding pen, a common perspective of topclass showman. (Photo: Laura Escobedo)

Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

The Kern County Fair season came to a close in early October, leaving plenty to contemplate and commemorate from the Jr. Livestock Auction. With the departure of “Buyer 9,” a widely known charity bidder, students were left financially uncertain ahead of the highly anticipated livestock auction.

Enter Auction Angels — a new nonprofit organization in affiliation with the Kern Community Foundation, which raised around $15,000 in donations in livestock purchases. Over the course of two days, the nonprofit purchased five hogs, six goats, and nine lambs — a total of 20 animals from 20 exhibitors. Exhibitors were mostly FFA students from outlying areas in Kern County. While the meat will largely be donated to foster youth, some will be used for a donator’s dinner event, celebrating all those who supported Auction Angels, and the rest will be donated to members of the community as baskets with meat cuts and vegetables. Auction Angels plans to expand its impact, and next year the goal is to have exhibitors submit applications to streamline the auction process.

Here is some feedback from exhibitors and parents who became a part of the Auction Angels family this year:

Angel Ochoa is a junior at Foothill and this is his second year showing a goat at the Kern County Fair. Although he never saw himself as someone raising livestock before the program, Ochoa has become very passionate about animals.

“Showing gives me some kind of work ethic. I just apply it to anything else I do, like something basic – say, cleaning the backyard. Before, I would just not want to do it. I just wanted to sit down, and now, since I started showing, I just – I just had that ethic,” Ochoa said. “I go to the farm every day and go and work with my animal. It is kinda like the same thing. I just go outside and go clean the backyard. Everything is done, and it is good. [Showing] has just got me there.”

After high school, Ochoa wants to attend UC San Diego to study marine biology.

Jaylyn Tun has been showing for 4 years. This year, she showed two lambs with Golden Valley FFA.

“I never grew up around [animals or livestock], but high school came around, and I remember I would see people on TikTok – or when TikTok was Musical.ly – you know people would post stuff like that, and I would just be like ‘That’s so cool. I want to do that,’” Tun said. “I remember asking my ag teacher how I can do this, and then it just went from there. Ever since I just can’t stop doing it. It’s so fun, and I love it so much. It just kind of became my passion.”

Tun is a senior at Golden Valley and wants to become a veterinarian, study agriculture business, or become an ag teacher. She is in the application process for Cal Poly, SLO, and UC Davis for their pre-veterinary program. She expanded on her favorite part of showing at the Kern County Fair, explaining that the FFA program teaches valuable and formidable life lessons.

“The experience that you get out of it, and the lessons you get — because it does teach you a lot of things. I feel like it has definitely taught me a lot about responsibility, a lot of time management, money management — just everything in general,” Tun said. “You have to be really, I don’t want to say it in a bad way, but you kind of just have to be on it. You know what I mean? You can’t start it and just give up. You have to keep going and just try your best, and it’s all worth it in the end.”

Jade Gonzalez Montenegro is a part of Mira Monte FFA, where she kept her lamb before the auction. This year is her last year as she transitions from high school into college. Over the summer, when working with show livestock is crucial, Gonzalez Montenegro worked a part-time job, took classes at BC, and still managed to prioritize her show lamb. She was out with her lamb roughly 8 hours a day on weekends, 4 to 5 hours on weekdays, and put all the money she made from her job into her lamb. Gonzalez Montenegro is in the application process for Fresno State and UC Davis for the pre-veterinary track.

“[Showing] is something definitely that I recommend for kids in FFA to experience. At first, I was also iffy about it since my very first year [a dog attacked my lamb]. I had to put my lamb down sadly, and I had to basically start brand new in a month and a half before fair,” Gonzalez Montenegro said. “It was very hard to try to catch up to where I was, but overall, the experience was like memories that you won’t make in other ways, especially having a bond with an animal. The sad part is letting them go, but the memories you make are definitely once in a lifetime. You experience something very different.”

Altogether, exhibitors come from various backgrounds with a wide range of experiences — some had been a part of their school’s breeding programs, and others created their own breeding programs. Some drove an hour and a half to the fair every day or came on a school bus. Many had no background in working with animals. Almost all talked about how many friends and connections they got to make, and every exhibitor was grateful and felt deeply connected to the experience that the Kern County Fair livestock barns provided them.

Thank you to all the donors who aided in the future of FFA and 4-H students and gave back to the local community. Not only is Auction Angels grateful, but all exhibitors and parents are grateful for the generosity shown this year.

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