By: Shannon Wietjes, Mentoring Student
When something in life has you down and you need to talk to someone, you may turn to a friend, family member, or maybe you write in a journal. For me, I turn to my 4-H pigs. This may sounds like a strange choice, but my pigs were always great listeners. Throughout my time in 4-H, I showed cattle, sheep and hogs along with doing other 4-H projects, but my favorite activity was always showings pigs. They are intelligent creatures who I grew to love, despite their odd habits such as rolling in mud and eating everything in sight…including my shoes. Not only did I find a love for pigs throughout my time showing them, but I also formed deeper connections with my family members since participating in activities such as livestock projects in 4-H and FFA are family affairs.
If you’ve ever been to a hog show, you’ve only experienced the tail end of the pig showing process. Before we ever get to the fair to show our hogs, my family and I would spend hours washing our pigs, taking them on walks around the driveway by our house, feeding and watering them, and just hanging out in their pens so they knew who we were. Pigs are smart creatures; they like to do what they want to do. It takes time to train the pigs to walk the way we need them to in the show ring. I always say that my dad takes better care of my pigs than he does me; he would spend hours mixing their feed and makings sure they were cool on sweltering summer days, while I would get to scoop up their messes and haul the dirty woodchips away so the pigs stayed clean.
By the time the county or state fair rolled around, we would have our pigs trained and ready to show off at the fair. I loved the competition with my friends at the fair to see who had the better hog. Winning “Grand Champion Hog” or another prize was always a plus as those events, but my favorite part was the bonding time I had with my pigs and my friends. We all share a love for the agricultural industry and learned this through our experiences with our animals at the fairs. I’ve had my frustrating and exciting experiences with my pigs throughout my years showing them in the 4-H and FFA programs, but throughout all of that the most important thing I found was my passion for agriculture and the hog industry. The hog industry can be frustrating and fun, but has brought me closer to my family and taught me necessary skills that I will utilize throughout my life.