AgFest keeps generations of local tradition alive
by Glenn Moore
Jun 13, 2014 | 2238 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Arianna Koster works on Wednesday with a wether she will exhibit in the market sheep division at the San Joaquin AgFest next week.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Arianna Koster works on Wednesday with a wether she will exhibit in the market sheep division at the San Joaquin AgFest next week. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Arianna Koster, 19, carefully placed the legs of her wether — a castrated male sheep — in the correct places as she ran through her showmanship skills during a practice on the family ranch south of town.

Koster has been showing animals for 14 years and will take her award-winning showmanship skills to the San Joaquin AgFest Junior Show & Auction, Tuesday through June 21, at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, 1658 S. Airport Way, in Stockton.

Koster, who won Master Showmanship last year at the San Joaquin County Fair by successfully showing six different animals from other exhibitors chosen by the judges, was happy to be going back to the fairgrounds to show her sheep one last time. She is taking two wethers for market and two ewes for the breeding division.

“I like the competitive part, but the best thing is being able to teach the little kids,” Koster said. “It’s an environment where when you grow up in it, you get to teach others.”

This year’s county fair was canceled in December when the directors of the board voted to put the fair on hiatus for a year while they reorganized.

The San Joaquin AgFest replaces the San Joaquin County Fair vocational projects, livestock judging and junior auction for 4-H Club and FFA exhibitors.

The AgFest is run by a partnership of the Delta Cal Section FFA, San Joaquin County 4-H, the Educational Foundation from the San Joaquin County Office of Education and the 2nd Agricultural District Association.

Koster attends Modesto Junior College and is in her last year of eligibility to show sheep with Tracy High FFA. She has shown animals at every San Joaquin County Fair since she was 5 years old. She said it was good idea to have the livestock show by itself.

“I think it’s better. A lot of people would come and just fill the midway and not look at the livestock barns,” Koster said. “Now we can teach them about agriculture.”

Bonner Murphy, in charge of marketing and sponsorship for AgFest, said that more than 650 youths will exhibit at AgFest, showing more than 1,000 animals. Among them will be 19 dairy replacement heifers — the largest group the fair has seen in a long time, Murphy said.

“This is the most kids that have come in the past two years,” Murphy said. “We’re really excited. It’s been fun to focus on agriculture — it’s the foundation of the fair.”

Murphy said there will be more competitions for visitors to watch, with judging of breeding animals taking place during AgFest. At the county fair in past years, breeding judging occurred the week before the fair began.

“We’re so happy we can keep the program alive and keep agriculture education alive,” Murphy said. “It’s been a long time since the fair has been about agriculture.”

Showmanship competitions and judging will kick off Tuesday with pygmy goats, market swine and breeding beef, with all activities centered at the fairgrounds’ livestock barns. Opening ceremonies for AgFest will take place at 6 p.m.

Breeding judging and showmanship competitions continue through the week.

Along with the emphasis on agriculture education, each day will have a Diggin’ in the Dirt children’s area where kids can play in the dirt and get a close look at farm equipment, such as tractors.

On Thursday, AgFest will host Farm to Fork, a gourmet cooking event with restaurant chefs using local produce. Farm to Fork begins at 6 p.m., and tickets are $100.

Friday evening will have an auction for vocational projects, including welding and woodworking, followed by the Master Showmanship competition, which will qualify exhibitors to compete at the California State Fair representing San Joaquin County.

AgFest events end the morning of June 21 with the Junior Livestock auction at 9 a.m.

Koster said she wished she could keep showing animals as she prepared for a college career.

“It is important to keep that environment for the exhibitors,” Koster said. “It is an education they will take with them for the rest of their lives.”

For a list of San Joaquin AgFest events and competition times, visit

• Contact Glenn Moore at or 830-4252.

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