by Rachelle Lisby
Grass Valley, Ca.
Nevada County youth exhibitors are either members of FFA at Nevada Union and Bear River High schools which total approximately 350 active youth, or 4H which draws an additional 400 youth. Youth ages 5-19 can become a 4H member with most moving on the FFA once they reach high school. When you hear FFA or 4H your mind automatically goes to kids learning about farming. That is true but it is also so much more. Youth learn the skills necessary to move into a variety of different fields allowing them to enter fields such as forestry, teaching, food production/inspection, leadership, business management and more.
Youth who choose to exhibit an animal in the Nevada County Fair begin their journey as much as 12 months prior to the fair depending on the animal. The largest class of animals appears to be the swine division which takes a full day to complete. Exhibitors begin raising their animal in late spring once the pigs are weaned. While raising the animal can be fun, it is also hard work. The youth exhibitor must know all the ins and outs of raising their pig. They are required to keep strict records of how much the pigs eat, weight, special dietary issues and general health. It is a 24/7 job. However, these exhibitors will tell you it is all worth it when they get their swine into the arena. . If a youth exhibitor chooses this division of animal, it is a full day’s work. Market class is done in the morning and Breeder and Showmanship are in the afternoon.
Judging is done in three areas Market Class and Breeder Showmanship. During the Market portion the judges are looking at the “projected” market value of the animal. Exhibitors must know the best techniques for showing off their animals assets. Is it well-muscled, does it have extra fat, can it move easily and most of all will it provide a good yield at the butcher? During Showmanship, it is all about how well the swine and exhibitor work together. Judges look for animals that hold their head up, maneuver where the exhibitor is directing them, how confident the exhibitor is with their animal and their knowledge of animal care. Breeder Class looks at the pig’s potential for breeding. The judge determines which animal would best be able to carry a little of 12-14 and still be able to move and take care of the young. First in each class earn the title of Grand Champion with second place being Grand Reserve.
Pictured above are Gavin McElhannon and Anna Raymond of Nevada County 4H
Competition can be grueling especially in the summer heat yet these young exhibitors push through and love what they are doing.
The final step is the auction on Sunday. Registered buyers bid on the animals at a price per pound amount. Most pigs will bring $1500-$2000 as a final price. Once the youth exhibitor had deducted the cost of raising the animal, they can determine their net profit. Money is often set aside to purchase their animal for the following year.