Never Underestimate the Heart of a Champion

Never Underestimate the Heart of a Champion

by Adelyn Smith, LD FFA President

The beginning of school is always exciting for students, but it’s especially thrilling for the students enrolled in Future Farmers of America. That’s because the start of school means the start of a show season for many FFA kids.

Future Farmers of America is a national organization that teaches kids pride, respect and leadership through extracurricular opportunities. Many activities are available for students in FFA from public speaking and judging classes, to building projects and showing animals. Lake Dallas FFA specializes in showing animals, specifically pigs.

The start of the show season brings much excitement and joy, but it’s also a lot of work. LDHS Agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor, Jason Hardin, works through the summer seeking out the best pigs for his students. This is one of the reasons why LD FFA is successful. Hardin invests long summer hours and continues to work hard every day to help the group reach its potential.

“Raising pigs through the summer in Texas heat is almost brutal at times. Most people take a break during the summer because it’s too hot, or it interferes with their vacation plans,” said Hardin. “That’s fine for most people, but when you’re totally committed, and you aspire to be a champion, there’s no time to quit or take a break. Winners do what losers won’t!​”

When new baby pigs come in, everyone swarms to the barn like flies. After a few days when Mr. Hardin has looked them over then, comes the moment everyone has been waiting for…the assignment of pigs. Sometimes students get free reign on what they can choose and other times they get to choose out of a smaller group of pigs. Every person gets a pig that they can compete with and call their own.

Once baby pigs are assigned, the real work begins. Some come friendly and are accustomed to people, while others have never had much contact with humans at all. Getting a pig friendly and trusting in you is the first obstacle every pig owner must overcome. Some may take a day and others weeks, but you are unable to move forward until you have a pig that is friendly.

The next step is the most challenging: teaching your pig to walk. Lake Dallas FFA uses a whip designed to walk and train pigs enabling the pig to eventually be shown. Some pigs take to walking like a fish to water and are a joy to work with, while others…not so much. Many countless nights are spent trying to teach bull-headed, stubborn pigs to walk. Eventually though the long, hard nights pay off and one day it snaps in place for the pig. It’s a great feeling when students realize all their hard work, nights of stressing over their pig, pulling their hair out in frustration, and almost giving up was worth it. After this it’s just a game of consistency: feeding the pig or pigs twice a day; walking them; washing them; and all-around caring for them. One must keep the white pigs looking pristine and the black pigs looking sleek. One must also keep them healthy and watch their body language for anything wrong or off. Students must clean their pens, make sure the waterers are clean with fresh water and change their feed by adding or taking away depending on what they need.

Raising a pig for Lake Dallas FFA isn’t just a hobby, it’s a job, a way of life, a comfort and a joy. LD FFA expects the best a student can give and in return the group gives back the best it can. They are a family that bonds over long nights and early mornings, blood, sweat and tears, the desire to succeed and the drive to be the best that they can be. Several hours every day, for months on end, are spent at the barn to prepare for two minutes in the show ring and one judge’s opinion on one day. All of this is done not for the glory, but because FFA members love what they do.

As Mr. Hardin says: “We’re busting ours to beat yours. We might not have the best pig in the ring, but you can bet we worked the hardest to get here.”


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