Youth learn responsibility, business skills at county fair

Lauren McDevitt, 10, with Adams 4-H Club, gives Kabob Bob a kiss

For about four months, Lauren McDevitt has slept next to her
sheep, Kabob Bob, as she prepped him for the Santa Clara County
Youth Fair.
The two almost have a siblinglike relationship getting into
playful skirmishes and Lauren has been able to calm Kabob Bob down
by laying next to him so he could go to sleep, said McDevitt’s
mother Jeannie McDevitt, who heads up the Gilroy-based Adams 4-H
chapter.
For about four months, Lauren McDevitt has slept next to her sheep, Kabob Bob, as she prepped him for the Santa Clara County Youth Fair.

The two almost have a siblinglike relationship getting into playful skirmishes and Lauren has been able to calm Kabob Bob down by laying next to him so he could go to sleep, said McDevitt’s mother Jeannie McDevitt, who heads up the Gilroy-based Adams 4-H chapter.

That relationship will come to an end this week as Lauren shows the sheep and will sell him at the fair.

“We named him Kabob Bob because we have to remember where he’s going,” said Jeannie McDevitt, as tears came to the eyes of mother and daughter.

Despite the emotional challenge, such is the routine for Future Farmers of America and 4-H members who show and sell their animals at the county fair. Dozens of participants, at least half of whom are from South County, spent time grooming animals, parading them in front of judges and preparing them for the auction block this week during the youth fair’s livestock competitions in San Jose.

Youths showed off a range of creatures from dogs and rabbits to horses and cattle with different judging criteria for each animal.

Gilroy resident and Adams 4-H member Nick Funke, whose market goat was a supreme champion this year, said he needed to learn how to set up his goat and walk it in front of judges.

Each goat has a different personality, so training methods may vary depending on the goat, said Funke, who will be a freshman at Christopher High School. He said his goat liked to jump, so he would place items outside to fit his goat’s personality.

“You pretty much have to make (goats) work with you,” said Gilroy FFA member Daniel Krueger, whose goat, Rome, earned first-place awards at the novice and advanced level.

Krueger and other exhibitors paraded their goats Wednesday in a circle on a sawdust-filled area inside a tent as a judge evaluated contenders based on style, eye contact and individual features such as their muscle and hide.

Different animals present their own specific set of challenges for exhibitors.

Gilroy High School junior Connor Escobar showed a pig at the fair in conjunction with FFA. He said swine are generally tame, but they can get sudden energy bursts if they have not done much activity during the day.

Participants said raising animals requires a lot of work, whether at home or small farming areas at local high schools.

Krueger has spent about 45 minutes per day working with his goat in addition to more extended weekly practices.

Presenters buy, feed, train and find buyers for the animals.

“They’re pretty much learning how to do a business project,” said Ashley Budde, a recent Live Oak High School graduate and teen leader for San Martin 4-H.

Exhibitors also need to learn how to detach themselves from their animals.

Anna Boscacci, who lives in San Martin with the family of 4-H member Jessica Davenport, said she was heartbroken when Davenport’s goat left home.

“During the first day out here, I cried,” Boscacci said. “I thought, ‘God, that poor thing has no idea that its days are numbered.’ “

Still, it all paid off for Davenport, whose meat goat “Alfie” became a champion.

As difficult as the process of selling the animals can be, Jeannie McDevitt said it’s just a reality of life.

“We know where our food comes from,” she said.

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