Auction Angels is a non-proft organization that supports FFA and 4-H and feeds the local community. (Photo: Valley Ag Voice)

Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice  

The importance of understanding American food systems has been recognized by the masses over the years, and as a result, many have faced the reality that meat and animal products can be quite difficult to track down. Of course, there are farmers market stands and small business fronts, but there are other ways of getting top-notch cuts, large and small, from Kern County sources. Perhaps they were raised just down the street from you. Those willing to come out to the Kern County Fair, talk with the students, and participate in the livestock auction have access to this market. Unfortunately, many don’t know how to organize the processing of this valuable product.  

Meanwhile, in the auction barn, a problem has set in for the students who show livestock at the Kern County Fair. Students purchase animals early in the year, raise them throughout the summer, show them at the county fair, and sell them at auction to finish the year. The departure of “Buyer 9” from this auction has created a lot of uncertainty for students and families who struggle to financially support their livestock projects. Buyer 9 is the auction number assigned to a longstanding and widely known purchaser of livestock at the Kern fair and surrounding county fairs. Buyer 9 set a price per pound for each species and brought every animal that came across the auction block under that price. The meat was reportedly given to homeless shelters and the food bank.  

According to Dawn Stornetta, the Kern County Fair Livestock Supervisor, the anonymous buyer purchased 74% of the entire auction in 2017, 83% in 2018, and 91% in 2019, their last year at the fair. Now, students have lost the massive safety net that Buyer 9’s services once provided.  

Kailani Smith is a freshman at Frontier High School who has grown up seeing her older cousins show at the fair. This year, she has decided to join the FFA program and show a goat. This will be her first year showing, and she noted that it’s “nerve-racking,” but she is ready. Smith has not yet secured a buyer for her goat Harlow at the auction. Instead, she is focusing on spending the limited time she has left with him, as many youths would. Harlow is housed at the school’s farm, which will not house animals after the fair. This is standard protocol for all high school FFA programs, 4-H divisions, and individual showmen, as the intended purpose of the shows and auction is to sponsor education in animal husbandry and create a marketplace for local meat products.  

My family and I have spent many years out in the livestock barns, and Buyer 9 has supported us many times. It’s unfortunate that they cannot continue this charity fund, but the community is grateful for their extensive support in the past. Hoping to carry the same torch that Buyer 9 did, although much smaller, my mom Laura Hill, CEO of the local firm Pinnacle Recruitment Services, Russell Johnson, co-owner of Valley Ag Voice, and I have started a non-profit called Auction Angels.  

Auction Angels hopes to connect local sponsors with exhibitors selling their projects at the Kern County Fair with the intention of donating the meat back to the community. With the funds raised, live animals will be purchased at auction from the exhibitors and processed by local butchers such as Contract Killerz, Michelle’s Custom Cutting, and Farmers Wholesale Meats. The meat will then be donated back to the community. The concept behind Auction Angels was founded when my mom and I realized the lack of support for these exhibitors. The long-term plan for this non-profit is to create a recognizable source for future farmers who rely on community support to help fund their livestock projects. Last year, the team — Laura, Russell, and I — purchased 15 animals from exhibitors who had no other financial support. The majority of the meat was donated to Victory Family Services, a non-profit organization supporting foster care for youth. This year, we are shooting for roughly 20-30 animals.  

Laura Hill noted, “I cannot think of a more worthy cause to draw the community together than to support these extremely hard-working youths in raising their livestock projects. I am humbled by the outpouring of support for our community, and I can’t wait to see what we will do with this new endeavor.” 

If you’re interested in donating, please call me directly for more information at (661) 204-9325 or visit the Auction Angels website.

My family has been buying and consuming show stock from the fair for many years, and the quality of meat grown right here in Kern County is spectacular. The competition style of raising these animals, meaning extremely high-quality feed and exercise regimes, transfers directly into the meat. I have never seen a goat that looked so much like Kobe beef or tasted as good as what the Kern Fair offers.

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