Reposted with permission from Carly Martin
By Carly Martin
The World Pork Expo, held June 7-10 at the Iowa State Fair grounds in Des Moines, holds the largest junior-pedigreed barrow and gilt show in the world. This year, there was a record high of 1,750 pigs shown. Contestants can start participating as young as 3 and can continue until 21.
The National Junior Swine Association (NJSA), along with Team Purebred, hosted this year's show. NJSA provides an opportunity for youth to get involved in purebred Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire, and Landrace breeds of swine. Team Purebred supports youth interested in Berkshire, Chester Ehite, Poland China, and spotted swine.
I've been a member of NJSA for many years. I have had the privilege to not only take part in many shows, but also meet and network with many people.
I grew up on a purebred swine seedstock farm in Marion, Iowa. We raise corn and soybeans and also have a 75 head sow operation consisting of selling show pigs and breeding stock.
I started showing pigs when I was four years old and have continued ever since. My most memorable moments have always been the time spent with family and friends, not what placing I received or what my score was.
From water fights to hide-n-seek in the barn or sitting around playing card games, those are the moments I remember most. Of course, I always looked forward to showing my pigs, too. Programs like the NJSA are really beneficial to the livestock industry. They help encourage youth through leadership programs while building life-long friendships along the way.
NJSA members from 26 states made the trip to Des Moines to compete against the top competition in the nation. From Maryland to California, you will find youth who have traveled many hours to participate.Before the Show
Preparation is key. From my personal experience over the past 15 years, showing pigs has evolved in many ways. A successful athlete doesn't just show up on the day of the race and expect to win. Countless hours are spent training and perfecting their every move. It's the same for a swine show. Hard work and dedication is critical when it comes to preparing. Hogs must be walked each day to train them how to behave and to condition them to the walking required.
It's all about standing out. Both men and women wear bright colors to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd. Anything that will help the judge remember you will provide an edge. It's typical to see a guy sporting a pink or purple shirt, while girls will dress up their outfit with some "bling" belts and jewelry. I have found that people who wear distinct designs or brightly colored shirts tend to stand out the most.The Events
The barrow show kicked off on Wednesday of the World Pork Expo followed by the gilt show on Thursday. Each consisted of classes of crossbred hogs, as well as purebreds. By the end of each day, a champion and reserve hog was selected for both crossbreds and purebreds.
Showmanship is one of the most popular events at NJSA shows. Contestants are judged on their ability to show their animal and share their knowledge about the swine industry.
Watching and participating in showmanship has always been one of my favorites. It's interesting to see the different styles and techniques people use from across the country. In the youngest two classes, novice and junior, it amazes me to see kids that are very talented showmen at such a young age. And for parents that start their kids showing around age 3 or 4, it even more entertaining. Typically, they will lose their pig in the ring a good number of times, try to borrow someone else's or even wave to their family and friends watching from afar.
The final event was the judging contest on Friday morning. Contestants judge as individuals and/or on a team of four. Four pigs enter a ring at a time. Each pig is designated with a 1,2,3 or 4 chalk mark on their backs. The contestants are given a scorecard and 10 minutes to evaluate the class and rank them from first to last.
At the end of the day, awards were presented to the top 10 individuals in each age group, as well as the top 10 judging teams.Good Character
As I approach my last two years of eligibility for NJSA, I have realized the importance of handling myself with good character. When I first started showing, I always looked up to the older showmen, watching their every move so that I could be like them someday. It is so important to always set a good example at these shows because you never know who may be looking up to you.
A long-time friend of mine, Jenny Deppy, an ISU alum, approached me with her second-grade daughter at the show. The daughter said she'd been told to watch me when I show. With her notebook in one hand and a camera in the other, you could see in her eyes how eager she was to talk to me. I joked with her and Jenny that they might be taking notes on "what not to do" after watching me show.
I have gained so much from this organization. NJSA has allowed me to take part in hands-on leadership and it has also taught teamwork, responsibility, integrity and has helped develop and shape me into the person I am today.