The Stanislaus County Fair is in full swing in Turlock and a small contingent of local 4-H and FFA members are enjoying the experience of showing their animal projects at the annual summer venue.
Ceres and Central Valley high school FFA members have been donning their blue corduroy FFA jackets, holding onto their freshly scrubbed and prepared animal, and drawing on hours of showmanship practice to walk into the show ring with confidence at the Turlock Fair.
During the 10-day affair, which started Friday, Ceres and Hughson students have been exhibiting a wide range of projects including dairy and beef cattle, sheep, meat goats, pigs, rabbits, poultry, ag mechanic projects, vegetables and plants.
Three members of Ceres 4-H were busy at barn duty in triple-digit heat on Monday afternoon but relishing in their recent victories with rabbit entries.
Davian Maldonado placed first and second places for his Silver Marten rabbit.
“I was going to show three – but then this is my sister’s rabbit – they all got disqualifications because this one beat up my two chocolates and my blue just ripped its fur from belly to tail,” said Davian.
“A whole year’s worth of work down the drain,” added his mother who sat nearby.
His sister, Lillyann Maldonado, was rubbing out a recent bite work as she held her rabbit.
“This is fun but you’ve got to clean up but it’s actually worth it."Lillyann Maldonado
“This is fun but you’ve got to clean up but it’s actually worth it,” she said.
Lillyann received a best of variety and best of opposite breed in 4-H rabbit.
Viviyanna Trevino captured best of breed and best of variety.
In the Ceres 4-H poultry section, Michaela Rantz’s chicken received reserve grand champion in meat pens and for her eggs she received reserve grand champion as well. Her Wyanndotte Partridge bird also claimed a first place in its class. Michaela also took fifth place in advanced showmanship over the weekend.
Her sister, Hannah Rantz of Ceres, took grand champion in 4-H poultry meat pens. Her chicken also won first in its class. Hannah took third place in intermediate showmanship.
Ceres 4-H member Colin Hill won eighth in showmanship and best variety and his chickens captures two first places and reserve variety.
Others in the Ceres 4-H poultry unit with animals at the fair are Alex Potts, 17, and Jessica Potts, 12, Tatiana Castaneda, 8, and Thailia Castaneda, 6.
Tatiana brought a full-size turkey to the fair that weighed eight pounds less than she does. The turkey is expected to be dinner for the Casteneda family this Thanksgiving.
“It gets stressful and everything but the kids look forward to it,” said Ceres 4-H poultry leader Rebecca Rantz. “They work hard all year and then now it’s like showmanship and knowing the answers and trying to pull them out.”
Russ Hill of the University of California 4-H program, said fair poultry either ends up going home with the 4-H member or being sold. Only reserves and grand champions typically find guaranteed buyers. He said Foster Farms not only gives the birds to the Ceres 4-H but they pay generous prices to support members’ hard work. A good exhibitor can make hundreds of dollars, like last year when Michaela Rantz came away from the fair with $850 for a 13-pound meat pen chickens.
Market poultry prices are closer to 59 cents a pound.
“It’s not a true market here,” said Hill. “A typical meat goat will go for like $2 a pound – that’s market price – and they go about $5 to $6 a pound here. They weigh anywhere from 60 to 110 pounds. It’s really about supporting the kids. The additional money ends up paying for scales of economy; they have one animal to raise and it’s going to cost much more than 500 of them.”
Rebecca Rantz said she got roped into leading the Ceres 4-H poultry program because her daughter wanted to get into the program and nobody else was avilable. She crammed to learn as much about poultry and fair rules.
“A lot of our volunteers who run our programs are really just parents,” said Hill. “They have other jobs. They’re not professional teachers in many cases. They do it for the love.”