by: PHIL HAWKINS - Fourth-grader Allyson Nicklous of the Green Grazers from St. Paul shows off a pair of pigs at the Marion County Fair in Salem on Thursday.A pair of young children walks through the stalls at the Marion County Fair on Thursday, admiring the pigs raised by various FFA chapters and local livestock organizations. They approach a stall housing a pair of light pink hogs with black speckles and ask if they can pet them.

“Sure,” responds Zach Brentano, a seventh-grader from the Green Grazers of St. Paul. “You can come in if you’d like.”

Zach opens the door and invites them inside the 6-foot-by-6-foot cage. He shows them where the pigs like to be scratched and answers any questions they have.

The exchange is all part of Zach’s training as part of the Green Grazers, an organization that teaches young boys and girls how to raise and care for livestock. The training, which includes raising and caring for livestock, also encourages kids to interact with the public as fair-goers wander the cages. The majority of the 21 Grazers at the fair raise pigs, but several members branch out to sheep, cows and dairy cattle as well.

“I’ve thought about doing cattle, but I’ve never really done it,” said Zach. “I was thinking about doing it this year, but last year I had a really good time (raising pigs) and I did really well showing my pig in showmanship, so I decided to go with this for another year.”

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Fourth-grader Hayden Schindler guides his pig at Showmanship at Marion County Fair on Friday morning.The students, who range from fourth through eighth grade, pick up their pigs in mid-March. The pigs are 2 1/2 months old, weigh close to 70 pounds and cost $125.

“If you really want a nice pig, you can go up to as much as $500,” said Zach.

Between March and July, the pigs’ weight quadruples to between 225 to 285 pounds thanks to the careful stewardship of the pigs’ owners, who fatten, exercise and train them for show at the county fair.

The kids show the pigs in a large pen at the fair. They’re allowed time to practice leading up to showmanship, where they are judged with a group of other kids and pigs in their class at the same time.

“The judge is judging the kid on how well they work their animal,” said Wendy Brentano, Zach’s mother and one of the Grazers’ organizers. “He’s judging on how much they’ve been practicing at home, how much they’ve been exercising the animals, the feed of their animals, the care of their animals, how they present themselves in the ring.”

“After showmanship on Friday, the kids have the chance to sell their livestock at auction on Saturday,“ said Zach. The pigs sell for $3 to $5 a pound, which is used to help pay for the costs of raising the animal and can be saved for the next pig.

As the members of the Green Grazers get older, they can continue in the club, but many go on to participate in FFA in high school.

“FFA offers public speaking, marketing, parliamentary procedure,” said Gervais FFA Alumni President Brent LaFollette. “It’s just the next level up in other skills they can take to further their education.”

The benefits to showing animals at the county fair and getting in front of judges and a crowd helps build self-confidence, accountability and responsibility, said LaFollette.

“There are just these other benefits that come out of that program that really help to define these young people and help to prepare them with life skills and job skills.”

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine