When Amber Buzzard applies to colleges next year, her experience will look similar to many other high school students — with one major difference. The junior at Orange High School holds a leadership position, does an extracurricular activity and even works with kids. Amber, however, does it all surrounded by pigs.
As president of Future Farmers of America, Amber has the responsibility of raising animals and leading a committee to organize Orange High School’s 16th Annual Farm Fest, which will take place on May 9th.
“When you see all the little kids come in and see the different animals, their faces light up with excitement,” says Amber, of Farm Fest’s youngest attendees. “The kids’ reactions make all of the planning worth it.”
The event is a culmination of the students’ hours of work raising pigs, sheep and cattle before they take the animals to the Orange County Fair this year. For the students involved, Farm Fest is an opportunity to gain real world experience that other “city dwellers” may never get the chance to learn. In addition to shearing sheep and growing vegetables, the students learn how to take on large responsibilities through FFA.
“Working on Farm Fest has been an amazing experience. Taking on this leadership position has been a great way to learn how to plan events and make tough decisions,” says Amber.
While most extracurricular activities require a few hours a week after school, students in FFA spend time at the farm caring for the animals every morning and afternoon of the year, including Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“They work their tails off,” says Patti Williams, the agriculture teacher and adviser to FFA. “This is our big community service and fundraiser for the year. Our goal is simply that people come out and have fun.”
Amber’s sister, Katlynn, held the position of FFA president when she attended Orange High, and she says that Farm Fest not only shaped her future, but is a value to the community as well.
“Most people don’t really know what goes into running a farm,” says Katlynn, who is currently studying veterinary science at Mt. San Antonio College. “I was spending 35 to 50 hours a week toward the end, right before the Orange County Fair. Many think that animals on a farm are dirty and smelly, but Farm Fest is a good example that pigs are actually really clean animals.”
Visitors of FarmFest will get to play barnyard bowling, visit animals in pens and pastures, view vegetable gardens and see a green house where the students grow flowers. The event is growing every year, and Williams plans to add an aquaponic program with tilapia fish in the future. The fish farm will have two 1,000 gallon tanks plus two above-ground planters that will be watered from the fish pond to capture fertilizing nutrients.
Last year, Farm Fest raised $2,200, which is used to help pay their way into the Orange County Fair July 17 to Aug. 16 and pays for the student awards banquet at the end of the year — a much-deserved celebration after hours of work.
Farm Fest runs from noon to 4 pm on May 9th. Admission is $3 or $5 with a hot dog lunch.
Orange High School Farm Fest: On Harwood St, north of Walnut Ave.