For the love of 4-H


These two — one daughter, one niece — have a big decision to make.

Today they’re going to a hog farm in search of the perfect pig. This is their first year in 4-H and they’ve each decided on a market hog project. The dark-haired smiling girl wanted to know how to pick one. Many opinions were contributed and discussions began and finally I said, “Just pick a pretty one.”

Language she could understand.

Find a cute little pig that catches your attention and choose that one … maybe not the best way to choose an animal for competition, but that’s what I always did. It could also be the reason my siblings garnered champion banners and I had to be content with occasional class winner ribbons.

Except one year.
My final year in 4-H saw all of us in the winner’s circle. It’s one of those family stories that everyone else hates — especially at the time! — but that still makes the people in our family smile with delight. It was special, unbelievable and unforgettable.

My brother and sister won their weight classes. My little sister showed two hogs that year and won both of her weight classes. I showed her second pig in the final round. So there it is …

Once upon a time back in 1993, the four Baker kids made it to the champion round and essentially competed against each other. I’m not telling this story to brag. Not at all. I’m telling this story because it was such a special time in our history. Four siblings, ages 19, 18, 13 and 9, learned what it means to make a united front and enjoy the spoils of victory. It was a feeling we can never duplicate.

Not because we won … but because we did it together. 

4-H is a powerful motivator.
Thankfully, it’s alive and well in our county for the moment. The future isn’t guaranteed but for this year, at least, my youngest gets to experience the county fair like only a 4-Her can. And that makes my heart happy.

That same year my brother and sisters earned grand and reserve carcass hog banners in addition to market hog titles. And I finally grabbed a pretty purple banner with my grand champion steer … but I’m not bragging. That’s wasn’t my intention at all. 

I will tell you …

I had to softly sing in my steer’s ear throughout the show because he lived life on the wild side and had the propensity to explode at any moment. My voice kept him distracted.

During the hog show I overheard the judge ask my little nine-year-old sister how much her pig weighed and she said “Three hundred … ” And I said, “She means two hundred whatever it was.” And the judge laughed.

And on the last day of the fair my other sister cried when they took her pig away. And I cried when they took that stubborn, bull-headed, explosive steer away.

My brother just laughed at us and went to the demolition derby.

Go exploring! You may enjoy these previous posts.


  • comment-avatar
    mothergoose March 26, 2011 (7:00 am)

    That was a pretty memorable year! Can’t wait for the girls to experience it all! Even the heartache that comes on Sunday afternoon!

  • comment-avatar
    Herfordgrl March 26, 2011 (7:30 am)

    You are not the only one to cry for a wild 4-H steer being taken away on the Sunday of a county fair. This blog really hits close to home for me as I had 3 sister and there is nothing else like competing with all of your siblings at fair. I am happy to hear your daughter gets to experience her first year just remember to take too many pictures and document what ever ribbon was won for because she will treasure those items later in life.

    Ps. Some times just picking the pretty one works.

  • comment-avatar
    Sal March 26, 2011 (8:03 am)

    Ah, those sweet memories! 4-H is a wonderful experience both as a kid and as an advisor to a club. There are years ahead to pick a winner if that pretty one just stays pretty in action as well as looks. My preference for watching the pig show as opposed to others is a given. No show beats watching that at the fair. Will look forward to watching them show and cheering them on! Pig projects are fun – expect the unexpected!

  • comment-avatar
    Robyn March 26, 2011 (8:07 am)

    Miss Farmgirl, I love your 4-H story and could tell a lot of similar ones. You are not bragging, just reliving good memories. I am sure you worked your butt off to get the success you did, I know my sister and I did. We showed steers, and occasional heifer and lambs.

    My sister was the sheep guru, still is. I was the steer barn goddess! But don’t ask my sister according to her I was a mean dictator. I will never forget the look on Sister’s face when I beat her in sheep showmanship for the 1st time. The picts Mom has in her photo album are classic! lol!

    Hope your daughter has a long and successful 4-H career. How fun she gets to experience it with her cousin.

  • comment-avatar
    Nancy March 26, 2011 (8:47 am)

    Wouldn’t it be great if just a tiny portion of the money from all this proposed new drilling went to the local county 4-H programs? That really would be a great investment!

    Great memories from my 4-H years in Columbiana County, thanks for reminding me!

  • comment-avatar
    Kathy Houret March 26, 2011 (12:13 pm)

    I hope the two girls have a great experience with their first market hogs. I remember the day that my daughter selected her first project pig. Little did I know where that one choice would lead. Soon we were driving all over California to jackpot shows, to Denver for the National Western and, my favorite, many trips to the NJSA Summer Spectacular. What fun!

  • comment-avatar
    Nashville March 26, 2011 (12:47 pm)

    They are definitely memories I will treasure for a lifetime! When I tell my Nashville friends about showing pigs and steers at the county fair, they usually don’t believe me. And by the way, when I told the judge three hundred pounds, it was said with total confidence. LOL It’s not always about being right. As the youngest I felt so proud of having my siblings in the ring with me. I looked up to you all so much!

  • comment-avatar
    Farmgirl March 27, 2011 (7:15 am)

    Thanks for the comments everyone! I love hearing your stories … doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, 4-H gives everyone a common thread, doesn’t it? Just an update: she chose a very nice hog … but her first choice – the one she truly wanted because it was so cute – was the runt of the litter! lol
    Happy Trails!