Opinion Columns & Blogs

Return to the fair’s agrarian roots

Want to do some good on multiple levels by supporting 4-H and helping the less fortunate — while getting a full tax deduction for your efforts?

If yes, consider buying a steer, lamb or hog at this Saturday’s Mid-State Fair Junior Livestock Auction and donating it to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.

Although big-name music attractions take the spotlight, the roots of the Mid-State Fair are deeply agricultural — with 4-H nurturing those roots since the fair began in 1946.

It’s safe to say tens of thousands of kids have raised and sold their animals in Paso Robles over the years, whether those buyers were families or supermarkets. The bottom line is that the fair’s Junior Livestock Auction is an excellent exercise in animal husbandry and economics for youngsters who may be saving for college.

And now, thanks to 16-year-old Christine Allen, altruism can be added to those benefits.

Christine’s story began when she bought a couple of steers from a San Luis Obispo ranching friend, Nicole Guriel, three years ago.

Nicole had raised steers for Ventura and Santa Barbara county fairs, partnering with respective county food banks. Her efforts have led to almost 50 percent of 4-H livestock fair entries being donated to food banks. Christine hopes Nicole’s concepts will bear the same meaty fruit through her efforts.

Here’s how it works: Christine and her sister Lorine each bought a steer last February. A third sister, Mary, bought a lamb. The girls put out an illustrated brochure explaining who they are, seeking support from individuals to help buy their animals. Christine took to the stump with a 4-H Make a Difference program that explained their plan, and she shared it with members of civic groups and farming organizations.

The gist of the message is that individuals made checks out to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County in care of the Allen family. That money — which totaled $10,000 on Monday — will be used by the Food Bank to buy and process their animals.

With donations being 100 percent tax deductible, the donor wins; the Allen girls — after purchase, feed and care costs of about $6,000 are subtracted — win with a nice chunk of change for their college funds; and the Food Bank wins by having lower-cost beef and lamb protein that will be distributed through a couple hundred county agencies.

As it stands, only about 1 percent of animals at the Mid-State Fair are designated to go through the Food Bank, but Christine has hopes of matching the Ventura and Santa Barbara county fairs’ food bank numbers.

It’s not too late to send checks to the Food Bank (P.O. Box 2070, Paso Robles, CA 93447). Nor is it too late to plan on attending the Junior Livestock Auction this Saturday at the fairgrounds to bid on an animal you can donate to the Food Bank, which will pay for processing. The bidding for hogs, lambs and steers begins at 8 a.m.

It’s food for thought.

You can reach Bill Morem at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or 781-7852.