Abby Garrett took some of her first steps as a baby in a sheep’s pen.
After that time, the 14-year-old said, “sheep became my life.”
Garrett, whose family has raised livestock for generations, is showing sheep at the California State Fair’s livestock competition for the fifth year in a row. She’s one of many young people at the fair showing livestock, and over the years, she said, she’s seen more kids participating.
Farming is important in society, and I’d like to be a part of it.
Samantha Mello, 14, of the Hanford 4-H
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The fair has boasted a focus on technology this year, debuting a drone race and an exhibit on science and popular culture. But for California teenagers competing in livestock shows through the youth development groups 4-H and FFA, the fair has always revolved around a love of animals and the family tradition of raising them.
Garrett said she wants to be a veterinarian or an agriculture teacher, and hopes to travel the world educating people about animals.
Samantha Mello, 14, of the Hanford 4-H, explained that her family has raised livestock since her grandfather’s generation.
“Farming is important in society, and I’d like to be a part of it,” Mello said. “People don’t really know where their food comes from; they think they just get it at the grocery store.”
Thirteen-year-old Sarah Leeman of the Citrus Heights 4-H brought her four pigs to the show. She raised them on her family’s land, drawing the envy of friends.
“It makes me feel proud about our land,” she said of the shows.
You have to take care of something that’s not just yourself.
Courtney Jacobson, 17, of the Liberty Ranch FFA
The fair’s shift toward technology doesn’t exclude farming, with new methods for breeding animals transforming the industry.
“You have to look at genetics, look at the animals,” said 16-year-old Alanna Pere, who shows goats and rabbits through the Elk Grove FFA. “You have to know what’s going on in the industry.”
At heart, showing animals has been an important part of growing up. It’s even taught many of the young competitors how to live, said Courtney Jacobson, 17, of Liberty Ranch FFA.
“You have to take care of something that’s not just yourself,” she said.