GUSTINE - Gustine High senior Roxanna Araiza is at home on her family ranch and in the show rings of local fairs.
The four-year Gustine FFA member grew up on a sheep ranch, and for three years has shown swine projects in local fairs.
She is pursuing her personal agriculture dream of having a dairy, complete with fields of corn and alfalfa - and using her FFA involvement to broaden her experiences and skills.
Raising sheep on the family ranch is a business venture.
When it comes to showing swine projects, Araiza steps into a competitive arena.
“My first year I had some trouble because I really didn’t know what I was doing. Throughout the years, Mr. Baffunno and Steve Andrade have really helped me out,” said Araiza.
Raising swine projects is no small commitment, she added.
“I wake up at 6 in the morning to go feed, and then get ready for school,” she explained. “After school I spend at least an hour or two walking them and cleaning the pens. You have to work with them.”
One key to being a successful swine showman, Araiza added, is to simply let the animals gain familiarity.
On the advice of her breeder, Araiza said, she spends time sitting with the hogs in their pen.
“I might just sit with them for a half an hour,” she told Mattos Newspapers. “I pet them, let them bite on my shoes. Just sit on the ground and have your pig come up to you. Then that pig will do whatever you want them to.”
Raising the pigs culminates at the county fair.
“I enjoy being at the fair, and the entire experience,” said Araiza, who is the daughter of Solomon and Maria Araiza. “You get to grow the animal, and then compete against other people.
“I really love working with animals,” she added, “but they can be stubborn sometimes.”
Her FFA experiences, however, go well beyond the livestock show rings.
Araiza said she participated in project competition. Her project was on maintaining almond irrigation systems....expertise she said the gained while working with her father on the Turlock ranch where he is employed.
She took part in opening/closing ceremonies as a freshman, attended the national FFA conference, been involved in meat judging and is in her second year of dairy judging.
“The first time I judged I had kind of a hard time but after every contest I got better at it, thanks to (dairy advisor Kelly) Sanches,” Araiza noted. “He helped us out.”
The appreciation she has gained for agriculture along the way has grown only deeper.
“We get to feed the world,” she said of ag.
Araiza said FFA has helped her become more confident.
As a freshman, she explained, she was quiet and reserved but is now more outgoing.
She plans to major in animal science at Modesto Junior College and finish her studies at Ohio State majoring in ag business, with the goal of one day having her own dairy.
Araiza said her FFA experiences have helped her in many regards.
“Our advisors really push us to get out there and do different things,” she commented. “I met a lot of people I would never have met if I were not in FFA. I used to be shy, but being in FFA really helped me with that.”