With the cancelation of this year’s Thurston County Fair announced just a few weeks ago, and with the 90th Washington FFA Convention moved online — both due to state-mandated social distancing requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic — local FFA students are counting themselves lucky as the Thurston County Youth Market Animal Sale plans a scaled-back event at Stewart’s Arena in Yelm later this summer.
With word spreading of a possible alternative to the popular fair market, and speculation that the event was going to be held at all, market committee members on Monday, May 25, announced the annual event would be held Aug. 1.
“The current plan is for a limited one-day event to allow youth to show their animals in a type-only show with the auction to follow that afternoon/evening,” a post on the market’s Facebook page read.
While the mass cancelations have been upsetting to many local FFA students, there are those who are still excited to get the opportunity to show off their livestock this summer.
“I feel like that’s one of the best things they could have done for the kids,” said junior Yelm FFA student Caitlyn Garvey. “I think it’s kind and smart of them to keep everyone safe, but also allow other members and kids to do what they love.”
A third-year FFA member with experience showing lamb and swine, Garvey said it’s still unfortunate that she won’t be able to show her animals at this year’s fair. Attending the fair and being surrounded by others passionate about the science and methods of raising livestock is an experience in and of itself.
“I was pretty bummed,” Garvey recounted of hearing about the fair’s cancelation. “Fair is just one of those things that I look forward to because you can showcase your animals.”
Garvey was also set to show and sell a lamb at the annual Northwest Junior Livestock Show this spring on the Washington State Fairgrounds.
After the cancelation of the show, Garvey was able to make connections within the community to sell her animal and split the lamb between three buyers. She admits though that selling within the community is often easier for some students who know the right avenues to butcher, advertise and sell.
Feeling confident with the upcoming Thurston County Youth Market Animal Sale, Garvey has invested in selling a pig and lamb at this year’s sale.
Yelm junior Kya Ramirez is pulling similar moves to Garvey. This is her first year raising swine, and she has a 6-month-old, 171-pound crossbreed pig named Russell she plans on selling at the market.
Ramirez was also due to participate in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show this past April and was planning on selling one of her two lambs. Despite the closure, Ramirez was able to sell Leo the lamb for $5.50 a pound — a really decent price for what the lamb would regularly go for on the market.
“I’m kind of just waiting on that, and if it comes out they’re not doing a market sale I was just planning on finding a buyer and going on it by myself,” Ramirez said before the announcement of the revised Thurston County Youth Market Animal Sale. “I was pretty sad that I wasn’t going to be able to experience the fair for a third year now. But, most of all, I feel for the seniors.”
Looking forward to this year’s sale, Yelm FFA adviser Matt Mounts said the cosign lists are looking a little slimmer than usual. But that’s not to discount the great products that these kids will bring forward to the market.
“As of last night, there are only 38 animals consigned to the sale … Compared with usual, it’s considerably less,” Mounts said, adding that the sale usually has at least 50 hogs cosigned at the market’s opening.
So far, Yelm has three steer, about four hogs and four lambs cosigned on to the event. Mounts said he also expects a small number of goats as well.
With broken hearts due to the fair’s closure, Mounts said his students have shown resilience in the face of adversity. Even as the status of the sale was in limbo, students committed to investing in livestock in order to keep their tradition of spring markets going.
“I know that the kids that have been showing are very dedicated to that, they got animals and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to chance it and see if we have a sale,’” he said, adding of the fair’s cancellation, “I know our students have been super upset … The kids, it’s bothered them.”