PLEASANTON -- Alyssa Stevenson was perched atop one corner of the pen and with a quick press of her thumb sent a stream of water from a sprayer toward two unsuspecting targets.
It was quick relief from the triple-digit valley heat, and her two pigs did not seem to mind, barely flinching when the water hit their bellies.
"Pigs don't sweat," said Stevenson, an incoming senior at Livermore High School. "Well, only on their noses, so this helps."
Making sure her pink Yorkshire and black Hampshire-Yorkshire mix pigs stay cool is just one of the many tasks Stevenson performs during a weeklong stay at the Alameda County Fair where 265 other like-minded students in various 4-H and Future Farmers of America groups are also tending to their livestock.
From last Saturday through closing this Sunday, the kids are arriving at the fairgrounds near sunrise each day and staying until dusk to care for, feed, show and eventually sell their goats, sheep, steers, pigs and rabbits that they have been raising since April.
"I get kids telling me it is like raising a kid," said Joe McNealy, Livermore High School's Future Farmers of America director and agriculture teacher. "It's a lot of work, and students put a lot of time into this and learn time management and what it takes to raise livestock."
For Stevenson, her two 250-pound pigs can fetch anywhere between $3 and $5 per pound at the culminating auction on July 7, the final day of the fair. Stevenson sold two pigs -- one for $700 and another for $350 -- last year, and that money helped her pay for and feed her two pigs that will be sold Sunday and eventually end up on someone's dinner table.
"It's sad, but you have to eat something," said Stevenson about the end process. "I know I gave them a good life and, no matter what, they were going to be market pigs. But I gave them the best life."
Livermore High School has the lone Future Farmers of America program in Alameda County, said McNealy, a 1993 Livermore graduate and former FFA participant. Founded in 1936, the program has 150 students in the program with 40 showing at the fair. Future Farmers is not the only way students can learn about raising livestock if their school does not have the group.
For Pleasanton's Tim Jannisse, an incoming senior at De La Salle High School in Concord, he has raised and sold livestock since he was 13 through the Pleasanton-based Abbie 4-H club. There are 13 4-H clubs in Alameda County, according to the Alameda County 4-H website, plus two in Contra Costa County -- Danville and Byron.
While Stevenson spent the last Sunday morning keeping her pigs cool for their market show on Tuesday, Jannisse spent the day showing his sheep and helping fellow club members show theirs. By early afternoon Jannisse, dressed in his 4-H uniform of a white-button up shirt, white jeans and a green tie, could have used a blast from Stevenson's water spray himself.
"Is that water?" one fellow member from the Abbie 4-H club said pointing to Jannisse's face as he put a sheep back in its pen.
It was not. It was sweat from the work he had put in showing his sheep and helping three other members show their sheep.
"People here in 4-H are down-to-earth," said Jannisse, who is one of two students at De La Salle who take part in 4-H. "It is a big family, and we are all good friends."
For Sarina Castro, 4-H and the weekly time spent at the fair each year not only applies to her 4-H family but her immediate family. Castro, who won best showperson for her dairy cow, was also caring for and showing a heifer, two sheep and two goats at the fair as a member of the Palomares 4-H club. Her older sister, BriAnna, and her father, Rob, were in attendance Sunday to watch her show her lamb. BriAnna Castro, who graduated from Castro Valley High this year, spent six years in 4-H, mainly raising sheep.
"I miss the animals," said BriAnna Castro. "That is the best part. The animals, showing (them) and 4-H club are the best part."
The junior livestock auction begins at 8:30 a.m. Sunday at the livestock arena at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. Admission to the fair is required. For more auction information, visit www.acfjla.com. For more information on Livermore's Future Farmers program, visit www.livermoreffa.org. For information on 4-H, visit www.alamedacounty4h.org.
The junior livestock auction begins at 8:30 a.m. Sunday in the livestock arena at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. Fair admission is required. For auction details, visit www.acfjla.com.
FFA: For more on Livermore's Future Farmers of America program, visit www.livermoreffa.org.
4-H: For 4-H information, visit www.alamedacounty4h.org.