By: Rosemary Cummings, CATA President-Elect
The recent circumstances facing the world has wiped out a variety of important experiences. In the FFA community, this means field days, conferences, and fairs are no longer occurring. The CATA and State FFA staff have taken a variety of steps to make virtual accommodations for many of these events, and counties statewide have done so as well. Many schools have been concerned with the cancellation of fairs and how to provide students with an enjoyable experience showing their animals. Nipomo FFA has decided to make its own accommodations and create a socially distanced, adapted fair experience for its members. This article will discuss some ideas on how to ensure a chapter’s fair will go on!
When school was initially shut down, many students’ first questions were regarding whether or not the fair would be cancelled. The undecidedness of the situation left members uneasy and upset. Lindsy Mendoza-Ortiz, a senior member, states “I was very sad about the fact that our fair would most likely not happen. It is my senior year, and I really wanted to have a good last year.”
Many other students were beyond upset by the likelihood of their fair being cancelled. Students knew they would be able to find buyers for their animals, but they were disappointed in missing the showmanship and competitive aspect of the fair that they had been training for. Many counties have seen online options for selling animals, but the showmanship element has not been included.
This is where the idea of a private, socially distanced, chapter wide fair can be implemented. Over the duration of three days, students will compete in showmanship and market classes at the school farm. Each species will compete on a different day to limit the amount of people on the farm. Classes will be divided into the morning and evening by weight and experience to further reduce the amount of students on the farm at once. Mendoza-Ortiz excitedly notes that “Small class sizes will increase the chance of more people winning prizes and having success!” Local community members will be asked to judge the events, in person for those with fewer students, and virtually for classes which have many students. Numbers of people on the farm will be monitored and limited by advisors. Masks and sanitation protocol will be monitored as well. The classes will be live streamed via the chapter’s social media account for family, friends, and other spectators to watch. The arrangement of this event will create a setting in which students can show their animals while following all CDC guidelines.
The event will also have decorations and prizes, to create a real fair feeling for students. Colored shavings and other decor will be arranged for photos and aesthetic. Banners and buckles will be ordered as prizes. Because the fair is limited to chapter members, students are able to have an input on the prizes ordered. Students have been looking at different buckle designs and voting on their favorite. Kyle Kuhn, chapter member, states “It’s really cool that we get to pick our own buckles and prizes, because normally you’d never get to do that.”
The educational aspect of raising animals has not fallen short during this time either. Students have been participating in weekly modules online containing educational material varying from nutrition, to diseases, to showmanship. The online modules accommodate students only seeing their animals and advisors once a day, rather than twice a day, due to limiting numbers at the farm. Lucas Alley, freshman and first year showman, says the online learning has given him a better understanding of his animal. “It’s hard being a first year right now, because you can’t get as much in person advice, but the online learning helps.”
The cancellation of all other events has allowed for funding of this adapted fair. With career and leadership development events and all other conferences being cancelled, many programs, including Nipomo, have been left with funds that are not being spent. Using these for decorations, banners, buckles and coordination of this fair has been a way to apply the funds to students in a socially distanced way that benefits the members financially and emotionally. Adam Morales, fifth year shower, expresses “I was really sad to hear fair probably wouldn’t happen my last year showing. I am so glad we’re doing our own!”
Students are very excited for the chance to show their animals and win prizes, while their families and friends watch from home. Hopefully, some of these ideas and experiences can be useful to other chapters in the state as they explore new options during this trying time. Despite social distancing, difficult endeavors, and challenging struggles, the fair will go on!
For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/