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SVHS ag student brings adorable livestock to county fair

It’s been almost a year since Bryssa Navarro acquired 500-pound, 5-month old Chip, the Charolais steer she is showing at the Sonoma County Fair. Navarro has raised him to be a 1,300-pound blonde beauty and she’s hoping he will place in the livestock competition.

“We really have a bond,” she said of the friendly-eyed animal. “He’s very sweet and gentle and he loves everybody.”

Navarro, always on the lookout for an extra challenge, is also showing Salsa, the 135-pound Hampshire lamb she’s meticulously cared for since June when he weighed 75 pounds and was a bit skittish and prone to kicking. She’s trained him to be as gentle as, well, a lamb, and pampers him with petting and alfalfa.

Navarro is in the agriculture program at Sonoma Valley High School and is raising her animals on campus while participating in the Future Farmers of America program. She has already raised chickens, two lambs and two hogs. Chip is her first steer, and it will be hard to say goodbye when he is sold to the highest bidder at the Junior Livestock Auction. “He’s the sweetest dude,” she said.

She paid $3,000 for him, plus $1,000 for feed and an additional $400 in veterinary expenses. Navarro estimates he will sell for $7,000 to $10,000 and she will save her profit for college. She will be a senior this year and next plans to attend Santa Rosa Junior College and earn an equine associates degree, then transfer to Chico State and begin her studies to be a large-animal vet.

This is Navarro’s third year showing at the fair, and she’s tried not to become too close to Salsa, knowing how hard it was when she bid farewell to her first lamb. “I was extremely attached to my first lamb and I cried,” she said. She chose Salsa “because he was small and super cute and fluffy,” she said. “It will be hard.”

Sporting a pink John Deere cap over her ponytail, Navarro races around the animal pens at SVHS, feeding, brushing and showering her animals. She takes both Chip and Salsa on long walks everyday, spending three hours in the morning and another three hours in the evening with them. In between she works full time at the Sonoma Cheese Factory, where she does a bit of everything, making sandwiches and espressos, barbecuing and working the registers.

The Sonoma County Fair is usually held in July, but it is two weeks later this year. The livestock auction is Aug. 13 and school starts Aug. 14, so she hasn’t had a day off all summer. The school requires students to maintain a 2.0 grade point average to participate in FFA, but Navarro says her mother insists on a 3.0 or she would not be allowed to raise animals. She currently has a 3.2, and is in the SVHS choir and is active in La Dragones, the Latino club on campus.

Navarro inherited five acres of land in Jalisco, Mexico from her grandfather, a farmer who grew bell peppers, tomatoes and jalapenos. It was fallow land that she fertilized and tilled on her last visit, and hopes someday to plant. She has spent the month of December in Mexico for most of her life, but this year because of her senior project and other responsibilities she will only go for two weeks.

She stands five-foot-one and weighs 100 pounds, pointing out that even her lamb weighs more than she does. Young for her class, she will turn 18 only three days before graduating in 2018. The only child of divorced parents, Navarro exudes determination and has her eye firmly focused on her future.

“I have plans,” she said, and one imagines she will accomplish them.

Right now it’s fair time, and she hopes to place and also to make a profit. She’s done some marketing to promote her animals to potential buyers, including Sonoma Market and Friedman’s Home Improvement Center, and looks forward to the payoff for all her hard work.

Chip and Salsa will soon be sold, but Navarro will go on, with many animals and new challenges in her future.