Who is Buyer No. 9?

What happens to the livestock at the fair that doesn’t get sold?

Luckily, kids in Kern County don’t have to worry too much about that thanks to Buyer No. 9 — a mystery buyer whose identity is a closely guarded secret among fair officials.

The mystery buyer, which fair officials would only reveal is a foundation operated by an oil company, has been visiting the Kern Fair since 2013 and buying up livestock left and right.

Here's how it works: Buyer No. 9 sets a bottom-dollar price and purchases everything that doesn’t yield prices higher than its threshold. So if a pig looks like it’s going to sell for $7 per pound, Buyer No. 9 steps in at its threshold and pays $8, said Chris Garmon, deputy manager of the Kern County Fair’s livestock office.

“In the auction world, it’s called flooring,” Garmon said.

Then the buyer takes up all the meat and donates it to a local food bank — in Kern County’s case, Community Action Partnership of Kern.

“It’s vital to our food bank. Protein is one of those things that’s tough to get in the door at the food bank. We don’t get a lot of donations in that area,” CAPK Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Tobias said.

Buyer No. 9 donated 88,000 pounds of food last year and about 305,000 since purchasing at Kern County’s fair began in 2013, Garmon said. The food from 2013 alone provided enough for 350,000 servings, said Pritika Ram, CAPK director of administration.

And all that protein helps create more nutritious meals, said Tobias, stressing that CAPK has been focusing more on creating balanced meals to take into account regional health issues.

“With the health concerns in Kern County, the high obesity levels and diabetes levels, we felt we needed to get away from just pushing calories to a more balanced approach,” Tobias said. “One part of that has been this protein through Buyer No. 9. It’s been a real godsend to us.”

And it serves as a confidence booster to ag students who can be almost guaranteed a sale if Buyer No. 9 walks onto the auction floor. In most cases, after months of hard work raising animals, they’re lucky to either break even or make just a little bit of money. That changes with a deep-pocketed foundation.

“It definitely gives the kids a sense of pride that they’ve raised these animals for six or nine months and it’s actually going to feed the homeless or needy,” Garmon said. “It helps them understand that they’re not just raising animals to feed the dollar.”