Virtual livestock auction replaces yearly Healdsburg fair event
The Williams sisters have put in months of labor, sweat and money into the livestock animals they looked forward to showing and selling at this year’s Healdsburg Future Farmers Country Fair auction.
The annual youth agriculture celebration, complete with community parade, fair and farm auction, was to be the reward for all their hard work — and a financial boon that would repay their investment and even turn a profit.
Gateway 4H members Ashland and Brianna Williams planned to show two steers, a lamb and a pig at this year’s event.
“I was really looking forward to showing him,” said Ashland Williams, a senior at Windsor High School, of her steer Nash.
Alas, the coronavirus reared its ugly head.
The pandemic forced cancellation of the community favorite Twilight parade in downtown Healdsburg, the multiday fair and the livestock auction in what would have been its 71st year.
The fair’s cancellation left ag students like the Williams sisters with no marketplace for their animals, a potentially stiff financial blow after sinking countless hours and thousands of dollars into raising the livestock.
It also deprived them of that culminating moment, the trip around the auction ring to show off the pride in their projects.
“I am really disappointed that I won’t be able to showcase our talents together,” Ashland Williams said in a video with her steer. “It really hurts as a senior knowing that I won’t be able to come back next year.”
But as is wont to happen in such tight-knit American towns, Healdsburg ag supporters vowed not to let the coronavirus wipe out all the hard work the Future Farmers of America and 4H kids have put in.
They turned this year’s auction into a two-day online sale of the steer, swine, sheep, rabbits and other animals the Sonoma County students have lovingly raised for months.
The virtual auction, which began Thursday morning, continues through Friday at 5 p.m., though some pre-set auto-bidding may continue beyond that time.
Instead of meeting with community members, sponsors and other potential buyers as they would normally do this time of year to drum up support, the kids recorded videos to showcase their animals and raise awareness that the auction will go on — just a little differently this year.
Grace Perkins, a 7th grader at Windsor Christian Academy and a Warms Springs 4H member, is an award-winning rabbit breeder and caretaker.
“She’s had her rabbits for over a year getting ready to do a breeding program,” said her mother, Amelia Drew. “Some kids had just gotten them. The kids were super bummed.”
Perkins is raising rabbits for meat, to show and to sell for breeding. She’s won multiple local and national awards for her rabbits.
“Usually spring break is when they talk to their buyers, go into the community and talk about their rabbits, beef, sheep or whatever,” Drew said. “They hadn’t gotten an opportunity to tell anyone what was going on.”
Fair board president Nick Dunkel said as soon as it became clear an auction wasn’t in the cards, fair members and ag club leaders pivoted into the online sales idea.