Building Future Leaders in the Show Ring

( National Swine Registry )

More than 1,000 youth from 32 states will be competing for top honors at The Exposition on June 4-7 in Des Moines. This youth show, organized by the National Swine Registry, Certified Pedigreed Swine and the American Berkshire Association, provides an opportunity for young people to gather together to showcase their hard work and talents.

Not only will these participants be exhibiting purebred and crossbred gilts and barrows, but they will also be competing in educational skillathons, judging contests, showmanship competitions and more.

“We say all of the time that the pigs and the show are the way we get kids hooked into the National Junior Swine Association (NJSA), but it’s what we can teach them once they are members that truly impacts their lives,” says Ellen Knauth, National Swine Registry director of junior shows. NJSA is the youth program organized by the National Swine Registry, the association for purebred Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace and Yorkshire swine.

NJSA shows and contests are designed to help educate kids about the swine industry, she adds. She is hopeful that this knowledge, coupled with the connections they are able to make, will help members land jobs and find future careers in the swine industry. 

A recent PORK Poll asked people under the age of 35 why they chose to pursue a career in the swine industry. One of the top responses was because they grew up showing pigs.

“Showing livestock is one of the greatest things we can do with our young people in terms of teaching them lessons they will need to apply later in life to be successful,” says Justin Rodibaugh, NJSA purebred barrow show judge. 

Rodibaugh grew up in the purebred swine industry. His grandfather, Jack Rodibaugh, started raising hogs in 1950 in Rensselaer, Ind. Justin worked alongside his dad, Jim, on their 130-sow operation. Today he continues to be involved with the family swine operation and is also part owner of a showpig operation, Tres Amigos Showpigs.

“Be dedicated and get involved,” Rodibaugh encourages young people. “Find a role model who can help you. And most importantly, with any decisions you make, make them with integrity and honesty.”

Practical Skills for Life
One of the main goals of NJSA and Team Purebred, the association for youth with Berkshire, Chester White, Hereford, Poland China and Spotted swine, is to help connect young people to exciting futures in the swine industry. But even if they don’t find a career in the swine industry, the programs are building more informed and educated consumers with critical thinking, public speaking and decisionmaking skills that will give them an upper hand as they progress into adulthood, says Dakota Moyers, Team Purebred director of activities.

“Take the educational events we offer,” Moyers says. “Our junior members spend time studying and learning new information that will not only teach them more about their projects but will also help them build a solid bank of facts to share with others when questions arise about the swine industry.” 

He credits the swine judging contest for helping members apply logic into critical thinking and decisionmaking which will help them in everyday life. 

“At a very young age, we also help our members conquer what many call their No.1 fear in the world –  public speaking,” he says. “We provide many opportunities for members to share their thoughts in front of an individual or group of people who will give them advice on how to improve.”

Shari Bakker, a pork producer from Iowa, will be judging junior and senior showmanship, a contest that evaluates a showman’s ability to present their animal to the judge. She believes showing pigs encourages young people to be brave and to get involved in something bigger than themselves.

“For kids, and even most adults, sitting in the bleachers and talking to someone new or participating in a speech contest can be stressful. I promise that if you push yourself, if you go out and introduce yourself to those successful people who’ve always intimidated you, there will be infinitely more lessons to be gained than if you never tried,” Bakker says. “If you treat people well, and invest in relationship building, this is an industry that will carry you through your hard times and celebrate with you during the good times.”

More from Farm Journal’s PORK:

From Pigs to Politics: Meet Adrian Austin

Swine Judging Contests Provide More Than Meets the Eye

National Swine Registry Announces Live Show Will Go On

Purebred Swine Associations to host “The Exposition”

Naig Says Enhanced Exhibition Show Requirements Promote Biosecurity