‘Fun and responsibility’: Work ethic a key to success in 4-H show and sale

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Words of wisdom are posted over the door to Logan Ballance’s pig barn.

“The only showman you should try to be better than is the showman you were yesterday” the sign says.

“My aunt did that,” said Logan, a 10-year-old from Lucama who will be bringing pigs to the 67th annual Wilson County 4-H Livestock Show and Sale on March 28-29. “The metal and the tobacco wood came from our family’s old pig barn.”

Logan knows the advice can be applied to all good endeavors in life.

For the last four months, the concept relates to preparation for the big event.

“It doesn’t have to be pigs, but if you didn’t do good yesterday, try to do better the next day,” Logan said.

The fourth-grader from Wilson Christian Academy is one of 81 youngsters who will be showing 160 pigs during the show and sale.

“We have a whole bunch of pigs,” said Jessica Manning, who is the extension agent for 4-H youth development at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County, a longtime organizer of the show and sale.

Logan will be bringing five pigs to the sale, a pen of three and two individuals, and she knows how many pounds each of them weigh.

“Magnum weighs 240. Chubbs and Butterbean weigh about 220. Blue Man is about 260 and Midnight weighs 242,” Logan said.

Midnight, a solid black pig who listens well, will be the one Logan shows for the showmanship portion of the competition. Logan will demonstrate how well she can guide and control her animal in front of the judges.

A lot of those skills Logan learned from her mother, Melissa Ballance, a Wilson County native who also participated in the show and sale from ages 10 to 18.

“She taught me how to work with the pigs and she taught me how to walk the pigs. She taught me how to do everything that I do right now,” Logan said.

The key, Logan said, is to treat the pigs with care.

“Just kind of treat them with respect like you would do a human,” Logan said. “I love pigs and I love doing 4-H. It’s fun and I just want to be able to work with other animals.”

Logan is a member of the St. Mary’s 4-H Club, one of 14 active 4-H clubs with more than 3,100 members in Wilson County.

“It teaches you that you have to work for what you want to get and you see the life cycle of a pig,” Logan said. “It’s a lot of fun and it teaches you responsibility and it teaches you hard work ethic.”

This will be Logan’s second year participating in the show and sale. Logan’s little sister, Riley, 6, will enter the beginner showmanship and the costume contest portions of the event.

“You get to hang out with people you don’t usually get to hang out with,” Logan said. “You learn new things and it’s just a lot of fun. You get to show pigs and it’s a lot of fun and it brings your family closer together.”

“I love that we can do this project as a family,” said Melissa Ballance, who had help from husband Justin Ballance with the pigs. “We are so proud of the girls and the hard work they put in. These 4-H projects teach kids so much responsibility and gives them the opportunity to be able to look after these animals and see the finish result.”

According to Manning, 4-H is actually an organization where youngsters develop life skills, responsibility, communication skills and critical thinking.

“Logan not only has to take charge in feeding her pigs, but she has also got to calculate how much feed that she needs to feed them,” Manning said.

“4-H encompasses a lot of the science, technology, engineering and math programs. Livestock is just one of the 88 program areas that 4-H offers.”

According to Jessica Anderson, extension agent for livestock at the extension office, children who participate in the livestock show and sale have to complete a project record book for the year.

“They have to set goals for themselves as well and kind of do some critical thinking as to how they want their animals to finish up, what weight they want to finish at in the end,” Anderson said.

The record books have how much feed the animals have consumed, the cost of the feed and how much weight their animals gain per day. That way they can figure the average daily gain, an important facet of the judging process.

“It’s pretty much where the animal can grow the most on the smallest amount of feed,” Manning said.

The books have to be turned in at the end of the project in order for the participants to get the check that goes toward next year’s project or college tuition.

Logan wants to go to North Carolina State University to study agriculture and husbandry and hopes one day to have her own farm and her own pigs.

Success at the show and sale could help make that dream come true.

The show and sale will be held at the Wilson County Fairgrounds on U.S. 301 in Wilson.

“It’s a great event to come out to see our young people and the work that they have put into their projects,” Anderson said. “We really appreciate all of the community support that goes into purchasing all of these animals at the livestock show. We will have 81 pigs for sale and 11 steers, so we need all those to get sold that night and we appreciate all the support form the local businesses.”

For more information, call Anderson or Manning at 252-237-0111.