OSAGE – Although Stacyville Shooting Stars member Zade Schell is in his first year of 4-H, he has being exhibiting in open hog shows for the past five to six years, more than half of the ten year old’s life.
About to start the fifth grade at St. Ansgar Elementary school, Schell not only showed in the open hog show at this year’s Mitchell County Fair, but also in the 4-H/FFA Swine Show as well, where he won champion pen of three, champion derby barrow and champion Derby Gilt, along with several blue ribbons.
“Doing the chores is the hardest part,” Schell said, “You have to put in all the work, because no one will do it for you.”
Zade’s grandmother, Pam (Ask) Marzen, grew up around hogs and has been involved with the 4-H program for most of her life. She explained her 92-year old father, Schell’s great-grandfather, who was a 4-H leader for many years, would also be in attendance for the 4-H/FFA swine show to see what Schell and the other children were doing with their hogs.
Marzen lives a half-mile down the road from Zade’s fellow Shooting Stars club members - Trace Huisman, Brecken Huisman and Olivia Huisman. Marzen said the Huismans have stopped at her place, from time to time, helping with farrowing or moving hogs and she’s has watched the kids working with the animals, learning the different aspects of caring for them.
“Sometimes, when farrowing, we’d need some extra help pulling a pig or moving them and the kids would help out. It starts with the breeding process, but moves right through feeding, farrowing and even the weighing and tracking the rate of gain,” Marzen said. “The kids all take a class on pork quality assurance to ensure they know the safe and proper way of feeding and handling their animals so they have a great quality project for consumption in the end. They all understand it is the goal.”
In addition to caring for all their animals on a daily basis, there are extra things the kids are responsible for before fair, such as washing and clipping their hogs to present a strong, sturdy, visually appealing animal.
For 11-year-old Trace Huisman, who will be starting the sixth grade in the fall, part of caring for his hogs means walking them and getting them ready to be exhibited in the show ring.
“You have to practice every day to get them to do it,” said Huisman, who has been showing for the past two years. He has names for of his hogs - Pudgy, Ginger, Jet and Benny.
Older brother Brecken, who will be a senior at St. Ansgar High School this fall, is also a member of the Stacyville Shooting Stars, along with his siblings and Schell. The 17-year old has been showing for three years now.
“My cousins got me into it,” Huisman said. “I’ve also showed sheep. If I have to compare the two, hogs are easier. It takes a lot of patience and hard work.”
Like his brother, Brecken said walking them was the hardest part of working with them, but knows it must be done.
Among these members of the Stacyville Shooting Stars, they have had grand champions, reserve champions and a series of blue ribbons.
“My sow got grand champion market guilt,” said 13-year-old Olivia Huisman. “Now I’m showing pigs out of her.”
The soon to be eighth grader got into working with hogs at the same time as her brothers and has hogs named Georgie, Becca and Wilber.
“You have to be patient,” Huisman said. “You have to stay calm and they’ll stay calm. One of the hardest parts is feeding them, because you have to get in the pen to dump the pail to feed them and they like to bite you or step on your toes.”
Working together, the siblings and Schell have come to represent the Stacyville Shooting Stars in and out of the show ring, helping and encouraging one another. They get a great deal of encouragement from family members as well, with the Huisman’s mom, Laura, serving as their 4-H leader. In addition to showing animals, the kids all have 4-H projects in the 4-H building
“My grandson, Reynold, has started coming out and helping to walk the pigs,” Marzen said. “Some days, it’s a better family bonding experience than others. 4-H and FFA are so great for learning, networking and just teaching them to work together.”