The quiet town of Arbuckle in Colusa County becomes a center of excitement and pride on the first Saturday of every February as it hosts the largest student-run agricultural field day in California.
As a volunteer public speaking judge this year, I stood in awe as the town of grew by half of its normal population to accommodate the 1,400 people who arrived to compete, judge, cook, and organize the Arbuckle FFA Field Day. Volunteers spend months preparing to bring in nearly 1,000 students statewide to compete in agricultural based contests ranging from floriculture and small engines to veterinary science and public speaking.
“I am really, really proud when the field day starts,” said Sarah Marsh, the Arbuckle FFA Chapter President and organizer of the Best Informed Greenhand and Creed contests, the two contests geared at first-time FFA students.
As one of the student high school volunteers, Sarah had to recruit 12 judges, find room monitors, collect and add up the tabulations and organize the contest flow for her designated competitions. Dozens of other students like her were doing the same thing for the other 17 contests held that day. These students prepared for hours ahead of time, arrived at 6:00 am to set up, coordinated events all day, and left late into the night after clean up.
After the speaking contest I judged was over, I roamed around watching kids labeling equipment parts, organizing floral arrangements, maneuvering tractors in between cones, welding, horse judging and pouring over farm records. Many of these teachers and students had come from hours away, spent the night in a hotel that evening, arrived by 7:00 am to check in, and would get home late that evening.
As I talked to students I could hear the nervous excitement in their voices as many had finished their contests and were waiting to hear their scores.
“I like learning more about motors because I might want to make a career out of it someday,” said Brett, a freshman from the Loyalton FFA who competed in the small engines contest.