"It's huge," said Heather Mulcaire, Mingus Union High School agriculture teacher. She's talking about the Youth Livestock Auction at the Verde Valley Fair. The auction is for members of FFA, 4-H and Youth Organized.
"This is my ninth year," Mulcaire said. She will have more than 100 students with entries in the fair and the auction. Many of those kids will be high school ag students, and about 25 will be between age 5 and about 13.
These kids raise livestock through the year to show at the fair and sell at the auction, hopefully making a profit or at least breaking even on their projects.
"The community has been beyond supportive," Mulcaire said. People attend the youth auction and spend a lot of money to help out the kids. "They're going to spend more than market price," she said. Fortunately, anything spent above market price is tax deductible.
The kids start showing on Wednesday. The show events are poultry, Wed. 4 p.m.; rabbits, Thurs. 2 p.m.; market goats, Thurs. noon; market sheep, Thurs. 5 p.m.; market swine, Fri. noon; and market steers, Fri. 6 p.m.
The auction is Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
That's when a year's worth of work, study and investment pays off -- or not.
Chris Razo is a junior ag student, and he will be showing a market steer. He's been raising the steer at the fairgrounds. "We pay $15 a month," Chris said. But that's only the beginning. He has to feed the steer every morning at 6 a.m. and again in the evening.
Chris worked for the money to buy his steer - Tank. "I always worry about him," Chris said. "I call him my kid." Much of that worry is because Tank is costing Chris about $300 a month for feed.
Tank was about 480 pounds when Chris bought him. The target weight for auction is about 1,200 pounds. Chris thinks Tank will make that weight because he's been gaining 2.88 pounds a day.
This is the first year for Chris to raise an animal. "I just had to go with the biggest and baddest," Chris said. "I couldn't see myself raising a rabbit or chicken."
Chris said he loves taking agriculture classes. "I look forward to coming to ag every morning," he said. "It keeps me in school."
Cortni Yorba is another junior Mingus ag student. She's raising a Duroc (Red pig) named Benvolio.
"I just moved here from Phoenix last year," Cortni said. Some of her friends encouraged her to join FFA, but she was hesitant. "I said, "Future Farmers of America, you've got to be kidding me.'"
But her best friend persisted. "So I did it," she said. "It's really fun."
Cortni is raising her pig at home in Cottonwood. "I have to walk it," she said. That, Cortni has noticed, draws some stares from people as she lures her pig along with treats.
She said her younger brother and sisters love the pig, but her mom doesn't like the smell. The pig was 30 pounds when Cortni got it from Nebraska. "I could carry it," she said. "Right now, he's about 225. I think he'll only get to around 230 to 235 pounds."
Cortni also has made an investment. "I had to buy a pen that was $200," she said. "Then I had to buy feed for $408.25. Then I had to buy the pig for $275." She's paying for it all on her own.
But, with the current economy, she doesn't expect much in the way of profit at the auction. "I'm just looking to break even," she said.
Being in the Mingus ag program has had an impact on Cortni's life.
"I want to be a teacher," she said, "and I'm kind of looking toward being an ag teacher."
Both Cortni and Chris understand that these projects are about business, about investing the time, work and money to make a profit. So, even taking animals with names to auction is part of the experience.
"Last year I was kind of sad," Cortni said about taking her pig Ophelia to auction during last year's fair. "This year I only go out there to feed it or exercise it. I won't be sad."
Same for Chris. "No," he said when asked if seeing Tank go off to market will bother him. "I'm trying not to get too attached to him. I knew that I was going to sell him and he'd be slaughtered."
Still, Chris says next year he's not going to name his steer. "I'll just call him "Steer' or "Mister.'"