Ashley Franco of Varela High School FFA, beamed with pride when her 1,306- pound steer won the Grand Champion prize at this year’s Miami-Dade County Youth Fair, where market bids ran up the highest auction prices on record.
Franco, 16, who walked out of the ring with a $300 cash prize and a champion’s belt buckle, was one of 49 Miami-Dade County students whose long hours of sweat and tears to raise cattle, swine and lambs culminated in the judging of their animals and the payoff at market.
“These students are learning about agribusiness and ethics, and that farm animals they raise aren’t pets,” said Ismael Ramos Jr., competitive exhibits manager for The Youth Fair. “Because this is business, the students figure out that the more buyers they recruit to participate in the market auction, the better the chance the buyers will compete for their animal. The animal project means more to these students than the money they might take home, because in the end they often are lucky to break even.”
The market auction raised 9 percent more revenue than the previous year for a total of $65,727, including add-ons, for 50 animals, Ramos said. Add-ons are the donations people make to individual students in support of their project.
Not only do the students learn how to feed and groom their animals, they learn skills that will carry them through their lifetime, from fiscal responsibility, to animal ethics, to time management.
Some of the students participating in the livestock shows are members of Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters at Felix Varela Senior High.
The Varela 2015 Youth Fair cattle, swine and lamb livestock show winners are:
Youth Market Steer Show on Mar. 12, Grand Champion, Ashley Franco, 16, received $300 cash and a belt buckle (Steer weight: 1,306 pounds); Reserve Champion, Arianna Balceiro, 16, received $200 and a belt buckle. (Steer weight: 1,130 pounds); Senior Fitting and Grooming Champion, Arianna Balceiro, 16, received $100 and a rosette.
Youth Market Swine Show and Sale on Mar. 13: Senior Swine Showmanship Champion, Alexander Roger-Paulus, 17, received $75 and a rosette.
Youth Market Lamb Show on Mar. 14: Senior Fitting and Grooming Champion, Ashley Franco, 16, received $75 and a rosette.