Peek into the 4-H Swine Show at the Erie County Fair
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • August 10, 2012 @ 10:49pm
For many, the most lasting memories from childhood revolve around achievement, whether it’s making the National Honor Society, earning “first chair” in orchestra or throwing a game-winning strikeout. In the 4-H activities at the Erie County Fair, achievement really is similar—just sometimes, it oinks.
Take Jessica Engel and her five-month-old pig Blackberry (header photo); the duo has already won “Best in Class” twice in the fair’s first three days, the most recent coming Friday afternoon in the second break of pigs.
In her first year as a 4-H independent from Springville, Jessica’s (and Blackberry’s) success has come as a surprise even to her. She gave a startled look and flashed a smile when judge Mike Hargrave called out her number as the “Best in Class,” admitting afterward that she thought the judge was “putting the pigs he liked into the pens.”
In short, pools of 10 4-H or Future Farmers of America (FFA) members take their pigs out from individual pens, guiding them around an open area with the gentle tap of a stick. A judge closely studies each pig’s body, from bone structure to weight to color—many of these are market pigs who will be auctioned off in the coming days. When the judge has eliminated certain pigs from contention, he ushers them back into the pens, and the last remaining pigs are crowned with various awards. (See video for a more visual explanation; Engel is in the white shirt, #56).
While attachment to these pigs is difficult because they’re auctioned off so quickly, it’s daunting for 4-H members to maneuver animals—five times their weight—with nine other pigs and a horde of spectators nearby. Kudos to the 4-H and FFA participants in the Erie County Fair.