It takes a village to organize the livestock auction

Youth, volunteers and buyers support Gold Country Fair event
By: Hannah Kanik
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Fairs are back in Placer County, and with them come funnel cakes, ferris wheels and the junior livestock auctions.

These auctions have been a part of the fairs for years and teach local kids about responsibility and hard work.

These kids raise livestock for months before the fair even starts and have to feed them, wash them and groom them so they are ready for the auction. 

At the fair, they present their animal to the community to be auctioned off for their meat.

There are a lot of players in the auctions, from the kids to the buyers to the junior livestock administration.

Flanagan family

The Flanagan family has all hands on deck for the junior livestock auctions. Each of their four children are putting animals up for auction this year.

The four children: Drake, Lilly, Timo and Gabe, are members of the Mt. Pleasant 4-H club and participate in the junior livestock auctions at Placer County’s fairs.

The kids are involved in the whole process by feeding the animals, watching them grow, selling them at the auctions and butchering them before sending the meat to the buyers.

One thing that sets this family apart from the rest is the fact that they butcher the animals for the buyer after the fair. Most families send their animals to a processor to butcher the animal, according to mother Susan Flanagan. 

“It’s a fun way to raise the kids. It gives them passion and a community,” Susan said.

It takes a lot of work to take care of all these animals. They all work together to get all of their chores done. They have to wash the animals, give all them fresh food and water and check on them four times a day.

“The kids are learning to be responsible and hard working,” Susan said. “At the end they are truly proud of the animals they raised.”

Jack Pchelkin

The Junior Livestock Auctions’ administrative side is full of 25 dedicated volunteers.

Volunteers work all year long, planning the housing for the animals, finding judges and pre weighing the livestock — a practice intended to ensure the quality of the animal’s meat and only allow market ready livestock into the auction.

Among the volunteers is Jack Pchelkin, the barn superintendent of the Gold Country Fair and member of the heritage board. The auction committee works throughout the year, unpaid, to put on the auction

“The only reward is that the kids get good money for their animals,” Pchelkin said.

Funding for fairs was cut by the state of California 10 years ago, which meant they had to fundraise and get more volunteers to keep the livestock auctions afloat.

Josie Hernandez

Josie Hernandez, 17, has been involved in junior livestock auctions and showing animals at the fair for the past nine years. She is a senior at Placer High School and is the president of Placer High’s Future Farmers of America.

Josie is showing three animals to market this year: two goats and one lamb. Showing is different than the auctions because the animals are assessed for quality but not auctioned off.

Each of the goats are her own responsibility. She has to feed them, wash them, walk them and give them exercise.

Josie said the hardest part of preparing for these events is working with the animals every day.

“Even if it’s five minutes or an hour, they develop muscle memory for when they are shown,” Josie said. “I’ve seen how much they’ve improved since the last year.”

She said that caring for them is relaxing after a long day at school.

Tom Lopiccolo of Les Schwab

Without buyers there would be no auction. Some members of the community are frequent buyers at the fairs, including Tom Lopiccolo of Les Schwab Tires.

Lopiccolo said he has been a buyer at the JLA for 39 years and attends the Nevada County Fair, Gold Country Fair and the Placer County Fair.

“Our whole background as a family came from the agriculture programs of the community,” Lopiccolo said.

He said that when he purchases an animal, he donates the meat of the animal to a family in need.

“We’ll come across a family with a child with an ailment or a spouse who lost their job,” Lopiccolo said. “So we’ll purchase a freezer and put it in there for them.”