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A SPECIAL PUBLICATION OF THE TURLOCKJOURNAL.COM

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Stanislaus County Fair holds first-ever virtual livestock events BY ANGELINA MARTIN

The livestock stalls and accompanying arena are empty this year at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds due to COVID-19, forcing local youth to show their animals through a virtual format. The Stanislaus County Fair’s Virtual Market Animal Show was held through Walton Webcasting Company on July 5, giving students the chance to show their animals and compete for a blue ribbon despite the ongoing pandemic. Rather than parade their animals around the ring at the fairgrounds, students showed their hogs, cattle, goats and other livestock from the comfort of their own front yards while being recorded. “It was extremely important to us to do whatever we could to help these kids

It was extremely important to us to do whatever we could to help these kids because they’ve been working on their projects all year. — Stanislaus County Fair exhibit representative Laura Moore because they’ve been working on their projects all year,” Stanislaus County Fair exhibit representative Laura Moore said. “We wanted to help them keep a sense of normalcy.” While the virtual livestock show experience wasn’t exactly similar to the

show students are used to participating in, the event went off without a hitch as participants earned their awards. Turlock Christian student Paige Vieira and her market lamb named Charlie earned a third-place finish, among other local students who placed in various compe-

titions. On Friday, the Stanislaus County Fair will host its first-ever virtual livestock auction, also in collaboration with Walton Webcasting. In order to participate, students submitted a biography about themselves and their animal, along with three photos. According to Moore, this year’s livestock auction will feature 280 animals — about a third of what is usually up for sale. Due to the pandemic, many students have opted to sell their animals privately. There are typically around 750 animals in the auction. Despite economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus, the community has still rallied to support students selling their animals, Moore added. Plus, the livestream allows for relatives and

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Central Valley hosts its own livestock contest BY DALE BUTLER

It’s been an annual tradition for Future Farmers of America students from area high schools for decades. FFA members had to complete their livestock projects without the Stanislaus County Fair this year. The fair was canceled for just the third time in its 109-year history on April 24 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. “It’s been hard on all of us,” said Gabby Benenati, Central Valley High School junior FFA officer/secretary. “We put a lot of time, effort and money into our animals. We lost out on that experience.” “It was a tough thing to hear,” CVHS agriculture teacher Ken Moncrief said. “Thankfully, we had enough support in our community so we could take of our kids.” The Central Valley High School FFA Junior Livestock Showmanship Contest was staged on June 27 at the Ceres Unified School District Agriculture Center. “We tried to make it as close to the fair experience as possible,” said Clarissa Fari-

The kids were able to get individual feedback from the judges, which is great because that never happens. It was really unique. — Clarissa Farinelli, Central Valley Ag teacher/swine advisor nelli, Central Valley Ag teacher/swine advisor. “We had different judges for each species.” “We gave away $2,000 that was donated by businesses and community members,” Moncrief said. “It’s amazing how many people care about our kids. That’s the neat part.” Twenty-five students from Central Valley exhibited animals, including 11 pigs, 10 sheep and four goats, in front of judges at the Junior Livestock Showmanship

Contest in Ceres. Alanah Tavares, Alicia Castaneda and Angelina Woods placed first, second and third, respectively, in Advanced Swine Showmanship. Soriah Corona, Amy Moreno and Judith Torres finished 1-2-3 in Novice Swine Showmanship. They were judged by John Traini. Guillermo Garibay, Isai Rojas and Jasmine Reyes placed first, second and third, respectively, in Advanced Sheep

Showmanship. Kazandra DeLaCruz and Jorge Avila finished 1-2 in Novice Sheep Showmanship. They were judged by Kelsey Traini. Arianna Gutierrez and Julissa Diaz Garcia placed first and second, respectively, in Advanced Goat Showmanship. Bianca Lopez and Osvaldo Pelayo finished 1-2 in Novice Goat Showmanship. They were judged by Gino Farinelli. “Our contest was smaller than the fair’s,” Clarissa Farinelli said. “The kids were able to get individual feedback from the judges, which is great because that never happens. It was really unique.” Central Valley FFA members dedicated four months to their livestock projects. Animals were purchased in March. “The most enjoyable part is being out there with everyone,” Benenati said. “We go through all the same challenges.” Added Clarissa Farinelli: “They invested a lot of time in the animals.” Central Valley FFA students sold their animals to community members prior to

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competing at the Junior Livestock Showmanship Contest last month. “We advertised to our district teachers and people that have been supporters of our ag program for a long time,” Moncrief said. Unable to compete at the Stanislaus County Fair due to the coronavirus pandemic, Central Valley High School FFA members embraced the alternative showmanship competition. “It’s not as big as the Stanislaus County

Fair event,” Benenati. “But it’s still something. The community gave us an opportunity to show our animals and earn some money. Our hard work has not gone to waste.” “It was so successful,” Moncrief stated. “We might continue to have our own competition even if we have a fair to go to.” “We’re thinking about doing this again next year for practice for the Stanislaus County Fair,” Farinelli added.

Photos contributed

ABOVE: Unable to compete at the Stanislaus County Fair, which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Central Valley High School students exhibited their livestock projects at the FFA Junior Livestock Contest on June 27 at the Ceres Unified School District Agriculture Center: RIGHT: Alanah Tavares, Angelina Woods, Alicia Castaneda, Amy Moreno, Soriah Corona and Judith Torres exhibited swine at the Central Valley High School FFA Junior Livestock Showmanship Contest on June 27 at the Ceres Unified School District Agriculture Center.

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Farm still lively as pandemic continues BY ANGELINA MARTIN

Since Turlock Unified School District first opened its District Farm five years ago, the land has grown to serve as an educational hub for students through crops, livestock and gardens. Although it’s a bit emptier these days as students socially distance, the agricultural haven continues to thrive. Students in grades TK-12 at all TUSD schools utilized the farm on an almost-daily basis prior to the coronavirus pandemic, tending to animals set to be shown at fair, watering whichever fruits, vegetables or nuts happen to be in season and participating in educational lessons about how irrigation works, or why photosynthesis is important to plants. Through it all, students are exposed to a myriad of different career paths which may have otherwise gone unnoticed if not for the farm, like engineering, landscaping or, of course, farming. The idea of the TUSD Farm origi-

nated in 2012 when the district realized that there was both an interest and a need to purchase a farm where students could house their fair animals, as well as take advantage of various animal facilities, miscellaneous fruit and nut orchards, open pastures and a garden area. After researching other district farms in neighboring areas, TUSD eventually decided to purchase a 10-acre parcel with a 1,400 square foot residence in 2013. Fundraising and planning for the farm began shortly thereafter and a farm cohort was created. In 2014, trees and crops were planted, plans were drawn for the beef and dairy unit and initial irrigation was installed. The farm’s irrigation system was finalized in 2015, as well as the farm house, and the cohort introduced a farm newsletter and student work days shortly after. Since then, students have worked to care for animals in the newly-con-

structed swine facility as well as cattle, goats and other animals throughout the school year. The District Farm’s success over the years earned it a visit from California Department of Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross and California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom in October of last year, who stopped by to see firsthand just how vital a role the farm plays in the community. The farm not only provides food for the culinary arts programs at Turlock and Pitman high schools, but also serves as an annual gathering place during the TUSD Harvest Festival and feeds hundreds of families each year through the district’s Farm to Family Feast. Typically, the farm is abuzz with students learning and working, but the pandemic has put those activities on hold. Some long-term animals have been moved to homes where they can be cared for around the clock. Students now sign up in shifts of no more than

five or six to work on the farm and have implemented different feeding schedules for the different animal groups. “We didn’t want there to be too much of a congregation of students,” Pitman High School FFA advisor Luke Gocke said. These days, students show up to their assigned shifts, with advisors and teachers picking up the space in between. They communicate on Google Classroom about the condition of the farm, the status of different animals and different jobs that need to be completed. Even though they’re not together as often as they’d like to be, students have found a way to make ends meet while missing their friends on the farm. “I think the kids sign up with their friends on purpose just so they can see each other for five or 10 minutes,” Turlock High School FFA advisor Randee Prada said. “It’s a nice way to still have that camaraderie.”

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ABOVE: The most recent project on the District Farm was the completion of 10 raised plant beds, constructed out of redwood by the On Track building crew; RIGHT: The District Farm welcomed its first litter of piglets Photo contributed born in the swine In March, TUSD’s On Track Transitions Adult barn in January of Program stopped by the farm to help water this year. some plants. Photos contributed

Photo contributed

Cunningham 4th, 5th and 6th graders visited the District Farm in February to participate in the “Notice and Wonder Walk.”

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Local FFA chapters adapt to adversity BY ANGELINA MARTIN

Much has changed since the coronavirus pandemic first began, but one thing that has remained constant is the dedication of students who make up local Future Farmers of America chapters. Spring semester is typically the busiest time of year for FFA chapters throughout California, from showing at fair to attending the State Convention. In Turlock and surrounding communities, those events were put on hold this year and replaced with virtual awards ceremonies, competitions and even livestock auctions. “In FFA, so much is built on relationships, from those between the kids, with community supporters and even between the teachers and students,” Pitman High School FFA advisor Luke Gocke said. “When that aspect of us being able to see each other every day is gone, we’ve definitely been forced to be creative and try to find unique and dif-

Kudos to the kids for going out and doing their own marketing of the animals, and to the people who support the kids in these blue jackets and work they put in. — Pitman High School FFA advisor Luke Gocke ferent ways to still have those relationships and engage our students in what ag has to offer.” Zoom meetings have become the norm for Gocke’s students, he said — a mode of communication that has also been adopted by the Turlock High School and Denair High School FFA chapters due to COVID restrictions. According to Turlock High FFA advisor Randee Prada, teachers were still able to make the canceled end-of-the-

year banquet special for FFA students who had won awards by organizing drive-thru parades of celebration at each student’s home. At Pitman High School, award recipients participated in a drive-thru on campus where they picked up their certificates. Signs of encouragement, goodie bags and plenty of school spirit made for unique events that students surely won’t forget. “The kids really appreciated it,” Pra-

Photo contributed

Denair High School FFA student Makaylah Simoes sold her goat privately by advertising on Facebook.

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da said. “It was really nice to see the students because that's what you miss out on being a teacher.” While the Stanislaus County Fair provided a virtual livestock show and auction for students to participate in this year, many students at PHS, THS and DHA opted to sell their animals privately. According to DHS FFA advisor Hollie Nielson, only six of the school’s 27 animal projects are going through the fair program to sell their livestock. “I’m surprised by the number. I would’ve thought more students would want to do the virtual show and sale because then they are still connected to an entity helping them sell their animals, which can be tough with private buyers,” Neilson said. “I think they sold them privately because they were disappointed at not having the fair experience.” Gocke said that all of the PHS FFA students found buyers for their animals, while about half of those at THS have yet to participate in Friday’s virtual auction. “The swine kids made out just as good if not better, even if there wasn’t a

Photo contributed

PHS FFA advisor Luke Gocke meets with other ag department heads via Zoom.

pandemic and economic stuff,” Gocke said. “Kudos to the kids for going out and doing their own marketing of the animals, and to the people who support the kids in these blue jackets and work they put in.” While FFA already teaches students skills that will come in handy for the rest of their lives, advisors agreed 

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Pitman High School FFA students received certificates and awards during a drivethru celebration on campus.

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 11

that the pandemic has only made their chapters more resilient. “In life we always want things to be a certain way, but sometimes things come up. We’ve been able to show the kids that things come up where you can’t always get what you want and you have to find alternative ways to achieve your goals,” Prada said. “Dealing with high school kids, you want to teach them skills and lessons that are going to help them when they get out into the real world after graduating. I explain all the time that life is going to have its trials and tribulations, so when adversity strikes you have to adapt to those situations and develop ways to still progress and to find a solution,” Gocke said. “I think this has really shown us that we are a lot more capable than we thought we were.”

Photo contributed

While all PHS FFA students opted to sell their livestock privately, some still participated in the Stanislaus County Fair’s virtual livestock show.

Photo contributed

Turlock High School FFA teachers surprised students at home with the awards that they would have received at their banquet this year.

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California 4-H at Home STAFF REPORTS

As coronavirus concerns keep groups from gathering in person, a new website allows 4-H members to share activities that they can do from home, either online or offline. California 4-H at Home (ucanr.edu/ sites/ca4H/) includes links to live events, information and resources to stay connected and participate in 4-H from home and updates on state and national 4-H events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Activities from home include:   Treemendous Tuesdays: California 4-H and California Project Learning Tree are teaming up to host weekly Zoom sessions that include an independent exploration. The sessions

aim to inspire all participants to discover more about the nature around them. Register at http://ucanr.edu/elearningplt to receive the Zoom link to join in.   Virtual 4-H Mindful Me: Youth ages 5-8 can view video recorded lessons and participate in adapted activities that build skills in mindfulness and social-emotional competencies like, mindfulness practices that include: mindful eating, affirmations (emotional support or encouragement), identification and management of emotions, being present in the current moment and yoga. Each lesson includes a reading of a children’s book along with a simple application activity.   4-H Fresh Chefs Digital Cookbook: The digital cookbook features 50 reci-

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pes from 4-H'ers across the country, 4-H alumni and supporters. Recipes include everyday foods like, Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza, Crispy Smashed Potatoes, and Asian Lettuce Wraps, in addition to celebration foods, like Chicken Pot Pie, Gingerbread Doughnuts, and Sprinkle Cake Pops, that teach families how to balance eating habits.   A downloadable 4-H at Home Activity Guide that includes educational activities from kids and teens to do at home. The next live event is the “Our Wild California” virtual 4-H camp. This camp will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. daily from July 13-17 and is open to youth ages 9 to 18. With young people in mind, a collaboration among 4-H staff and volunteers will offer virtual ex-

14 FFA & 4-H

periences for youth during this summer camp including sessions on: Citizen Science: Stay at Home Explorer, iNaturalist, The Science of Fire, Coding a Clean Ocean, Family Birding and Creative Art. Participants can sign up for their choice of morning and afternoon activities. Some activities have space limits, however. Visit ucanr.edu/virtualcamp1 for activity descriptions, schedule, and registration link. Participants can also order a "Our Wild California" camp t-shirt. There is a $25 registration fee, with $10 for additional youth in the same family. Scholarships are available. A second virtual summer camp — 4-H Grown @Home — will be held Aug. 3-7.


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