Urban farming has its limits. It’s rare an urban farmer has enough room for to all the different kinds of critters you would typically see on a farm. So what can we do about it? Go to the county fair for a livestock fix!
This past weekend, I went to the Orange County Fair, considered one of the top fairs in California. The fairgrounds are located in one of the most populated areas of Southern California, and are packed with people during the month-long fair.
My husband and some friends wanted to indulge in the fair’s many culinary delights (deep-fried butter and chocolate covered bacon — yum!), and browse through the many buildings of stuff (the Carnival of Products was a particular fave). But I wanted to go for one reason only: the animals.
Fortunately for me, our group’s first stop at the fair was the Centennial Farm. The four-acre farm resides at the fairgrounds year-round, but during fair time, 4-H and FFH members fill the barns with their project animals. Cows, sheep, pigs, goats, rabbits, oxen, and donkeys are all over the place.
Although I missed the birthing of piglets that was reportedly scheduled to take place, I did get to bask in the presence of a variety of animals I don’t usually get to see. We stopped and petted the huge American Yorkshire pigs, and marveled at how little hair they have. It was like petting the head of a balding man.
In pig mode, we decided to go watch the pig races. It was hard to get a spot where we could see the action. Apparently, watching oinkers run around a U-shaped track is a popular pastime with fairgoers. In between people’s heads, I did see a few of the races of these “Alaskan” pigs, which actually looked more like American Yorkshire piglets to me. The crowded roared as four pigs at a time would run through the track, negotiating a couple of hurdles, all so they could get to a trough at food at the end.
Next on the list for viewing were a couple of huge oxen. I never really understood the difference between a cow and an ox until I saw these guys. They are much bigger than cows. Their poop is much bigger, too. It was amusing to see the crowd of city slickers clear out at lightning speed when one of the oxen lifted his tail and began to relieve himself. Judging by the giggles and jeers, not too many people in Orange Country have ever seen a cow go to the bathroom.
After the oxen, we wandered into the FFA sheep barn, where I fell in love with a freshly shorn sheep named Charlie. I cuddled with this little guy for a good five minutes before I was dragged away by my friends.
Our last stop in the Centennial Farm was the petting zoo. I normally hate petting zoos because the animals look miserable, but this one was different. People were not allowed inside the pen with the animals, but could reach through the bars to pet them. The critters that were tired of being petted—or of eating the corn and pellet mix being sold for outrageous prices just for this purpose—could get away from the grasping hands.
It was here that I met my first baby yak. A brown, fuzzy little thing that looked like a miniature buffalo (of sorts), she gave me a big kiss on the cheek when I bent down to coo over her. I was so touched by this spontaneous yak show of emotion, I could have gone home completely satisfied. Of course, my compadres wanted to see more of the fair, so I let them pull me along to the food vendors and carnival rides. Apparently, they just don’t get it.