Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had the honor of hosting several collegiate & 4-H judging teams for workouts. The opportunity to evaluate our stock with top talent from all across the country is one I look forward to each and every year. Yet oddly enough, there have been several who’ve recently asked, “Why do you do it?” Well…here’s why:
First, I truly believe there has never been a time of more excitement and enthusiasm for raising and showing pigs. People of all ages from coast to coast want to be a part of this industry and as a breeder, I welcome them with open arms. It takes all kinds to make this business go and there plenty of indicators to prove that this business is ‘going’ right now. I get asked from time to time what might slow it down and one of my thoughts applies here. Our pool of confident, qualified and unbiased judges is shallow and frankly, we need more. In order to keep this ‘showpig’ business sustainable, we have to maintain integrity at our shows – all of them – from the local county show level to the major stock shows. A large part of that responsibility rests on the shoulders of whoever steps in the ring to judge and I’ll argue its more important now than its ever been. Families are increasingly investing more time and money to compete resulting in a highly competitive environment at all levels of showing. Tough competition calls for tough minded, confident judges and I believe we need more.
Second, I wish I would’ve done it. I wish I would’ve been on a livestock judging team in college. I wish I could reminiscence about my ‘pilgrimage’ to Austin or the class of Hampshire gilts I busted or the set I talked really well even though I didn’t agree with the officials. I wish I could turn back the clock. After graduating High School I had the opportunity to serve as a Missouri State FFA Officer, an incredible year of my life and one that I’ll always cherish. That year of service combined with my growing herd of sows at the farm kept me in Taylor, MO while I earned a degree at Culver-Stockton College. Many have reminded me that everything has turned out really well, and it has, but if given a do-over, I’d choose to judge. I applaud those of you who’ve made the commitment to be involved in livestock judging.
Lastly, I believe in the program. Plain and simple. This industry needs the best and the brightest and I believe the judging program helps many find their way. The truth is, we don’t just need Judges to keep this business going, we need all kinds to do their part and I’m confident many of our future leaders can be found in 15 Passenger vans parked near Crane Pavilion.
It was truly an honor and a privilege to meet many of you the past couple of weeks. I hope it was equally as enjoyable for you. Best wishes in Austin and all fall as you practice, study and talk about the four-legged creatures that make this business go round. Learn, network and above all, cherish the experience. We need you.