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Youth Learn Responsibility, Leadership Through Raising Livestock

Half Moon Bay youth display months of hard work in county fair competitions.

The (FFA) definitely understand how to put the "live" in livestock.

The San Mateo County Fair is off and running, and the FFA is doing its part in making the fair an exciting event by bringing what most of the Peninsula population fails to see right to their backyard.

The Half Moon Bay chapter of the FFA will have livestock on display throughout the fair's entirety, including steers, rabbits, hogs, chickens and sheep, each animal having been raised by a different student. In addition, there will be livestock competitions held all week.

"Whatever animal the student chooses, they spend a couple months raising it," said Javier Gutierrez, adviser for the Half Moon Bay FFA. "They take care of it for the public to see and for themselves, and look to excel in showmanship by showing off the animal and having the animal evaluated by a judge."

Gutierrez, an agriculture instructor at Half Moon Bay High School, as well as FFA student adviser, has been in his new role as adviser for merely a week, but understands that as an organization, the FFA has a responsibility to teach its kids more than just how to care for an animal.

"What FFA really wants for the kids as far as this opportunity is to be able to develop responsibility and leadership, and practice agriculture," Gutierrez said. "It's a way for kids to be exposed to agriculture practices and also, some competition."

"It's also an opportunity for them to demonstrate their responsibility in taking care of the animal, and how much they've worked with the animal will pay off with how they do at the fair," he said.

The livestock competition namely features members of Half Moon Bay's 4-H Youth Development Organization and the Future Farmers of America, who on Tuesday, displayed their steers to the crowd on hand, among other animals.

The 4-H organization features contestants from ages nine to 19, while FFA focuses mainly on high school students.

Throughout the week, the public will have the opportunity to attend the livestock competitions, as well as interact with the contestants and their animals before and after shows. 

"This is maybe the one time a year a lot of people get to see the livestock," Gutierrez said. "And everything is open for the public to see. Whether we're in the middle of  preparing our animals, they get to see the animals getting washed or shaved."

What pleases Gutierrez most about his students being able to display their livestock at the fair is the opportunity to share with people in the Peninsula community something they may not be familiar with, somewhat in hopes that they will seek to become more familiar with agriculture.

Although the FFA program is present in every state in the US, Half Moon Bay High School is the only high school in San Mateo County that offers the FFA program. 

Gutierrez maintains that schools in the Peninsula area suffer from a lack of land availability, which negatively affects agricultural opportunities, something he believes creates less of a drive to pursue agriculture within urban settings. 

"It's pretty awesome because we get a lot of the public walking through the livestock exhibit," Gutierrez said. "They don't see much livestock around here. In Half Moon Bay, we see a little bit more, but here in the Peninsula, they don't see much. So it's a cool opportunity for the kids to walk through and see the livestock and hopefully, be interested."

One FFA student, Danielle Santiago, a recent graduate of commented that at a young age, her experience with the FFA has so far provided her with an increased sense of responsibility, as she has raised lambs for the past five years.

"If you like animals, then you can raise animals," Santiago said. "For the leadership aspect, there are a lot of leadership classes that you can take. It's just a program where you can gain character."

"There are a lot of things you have to sacrifice on Friday and Saturday nights. It comes with raising any animal. The responsibilities are definitely there."

According to Gutierrez, affording young students another opportunity outside of academic and athletic success is high in priority for the FFA.

"We have a lot of students that excel at sports, but they can do sports and this and pursue both interests," Gutierrez said.

To watch a video of Tuesday's Senior Showmanship competition titled "Half Moon Bay Youth Wins Steer Showmanship Competitions," click .

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