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Local organization to support agriculture students, food assistance programs through purchases at Santa Barbara County Fair

FFF Student
Pioneer Valley FFF Student Issael Guerra tends to his pig at the Santa Maria Career Technical Education Center on Tuesday morning. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The James W. Brabeck Youth Legacy Fund (JWBYLF) announced Tuesday it will expand its reach, supporting local agriculture students, as well as area food assistance programs through its participation at the upcoming Santa Barbara County Fair.

The non-profit organization was created in 2020 to help support junior livestock exhibitors at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles.

According to JWBYLF, its mission is to serve agriculture-related and at-risk youth in the community through scholarship and capital campaigns that assist in influencing their futures.

"The point of the buyers coalition is to bring together members of the community who want to help exhibitors, but don't necessarily want to buy an animal themselves, either because they can't afford to pay for a whole animal or they don't have a way of taking a whole animal for themselves, or are not interested in having an animal processed, or that type of thing," said JoAnn Wall, Committee Chair of the JWBYLF Buyer’s Coalition. "So how do we help kids that are exhibiting at the county fair, but we're not an active bidder ourselves."

For students, they said having the JWBYLF at the Santa Barbara County Fair should ease the often-stressful process they face during the auction.

"With the foundation coming in and with all the support for all these people that are coming out, it's pretty amazing knowing that everyone is going to have a chance to have their animal bought and have a great fair," said Pioneer Valley student Issael Guerra.

Just like it has during its initial two years at the California Mid-State Fair, JWBYLF will also help assist local food assistance organizations.

"We will take 100 percent of those funds and then go buy these animals from these kids that applied, so we're always looking for help," said Gabriel Ponce, Pioneer Valley High School agriculture department chair, who is also with JWBYLF. "The animal, and the meat that comes from their animal is going to help families out in our own community and that's something that's pretty cool and special."

Animals that are purchased at the Santa Barbara County Fair will be donated to area food assistance non-profit organizations, including Meals That Connect.

“The seniors will be delighted with the gift of this meat,” Elias Nimeh, Meals that Connect director said in a release.

Meals That Connect added that it provides more than 1,000 daily meals to people in need throughout the area.

The Santa Barbara County Fair runs July 13-17 at the Santa Maria Fairpark. After two years of being either cancelled due to COVID-19, or movied into a modified format, this will mark the first traditional-style fair since 2019.

"I'm pumped," said Ponce. "I'm excited to be back and I hope our community is excited and I hope everyone comes out to support all of our kids."

While the fair officially opens its doors to the public on July 13, all agriculture students must have their animal projects at the Santa Maria Fairpark by Sunday, July 10.

"What we're doing is helping create leaders of tomorrow by giving them a positive fair experience," said Wall. "Part of that means having them reach out to buyers in their communities, having them reach out to us and just making them aware that there's people out there that truly do support them and their efforts and encourage them to continue this."

For more information about James W. Brabeck Youth Legacy Fund, click here.

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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