I “Won” A Pig… Almost!

Yes!  I almost “Won” a Pig.  Actually I almost bought it.  But it was at an auction so to me it’s like winning something because you beat out the other bidders.

Why was I buying a Pig?  Eventually, I was planning to have some bacon and eggs.  Bacon is my favorite food followed by cheese curds.  This is why I love my job at the Fair.  I’m surrounded by my favorite foods…. cheese curds, pork chops, deep fried Oreos, bacon dipped in chocolate…

But back to why I was buying a pig.   Every year the RRVF has had a sow and piglets on display in the Ag Education Center.  2013 and 2014 have been rough years for the swine producers because of the PEDv virus that is spreading throughout our states.   [PEDv stands for Porcine Epidemic Diahhrea virus and will infect newborn swine quickly and they die]. The group that we usually get our sow and piglets from are unable to provide them for us this year.    Which means, no newborn pigs at the Fair?  A few of us involved in the Ag Education Center said, “This can’t happen.  We need a few pigs in the building”.  So here began my adventure into pig ownership.

Now, let’s clarify this a little bit.  I am passionate about Ag Education.  I’ve been around animals my entire life.  But I have never, I repeat, never, attempted to purchase a pig.  I have no idea what to even look for in a pig.  Since I’m attending a sale, I thought I better take a crash course on how to buy a pig.  What better place to turn…. than the internet.

I found some not-so-helpful tips on pig buying.  One site said to choose the largest and most active in the litter.   While another site talked about the color and said that a curly tail is better than a straight tail.   Really?  Does the color or the tail make a difference on how my bacon is going to taste?  After searching the internet for far too long, I came to the conclusion that none of those things should matter and that I will go to the sale, observe the other buyers, and just raise my hand, bidding like I know what I’m doing.

Following a short search, I found a sale to attend.  I just happened to have some fair friends that are involved with the Wright County Fair, Howard Lake, MN.  They are also swine producers and were having a project pig sale this past Sunday.   (A project pig sale is for pigs that are bred for showing at fairs.)  So my 12 year old son and I hopped in the car and drove in the rain to the West Ottertail County Fairgrounds in Fergus Falls, MN for the Beise Project Pig Sale.

I was told by another fair friend from the Norman County Fair, Ada, MN, to arrive early and he would help me pick out the best pigs.  I had my checkbook with me and I was ready to buy some bacon!

I was pretty confident that I was going home with a couple of pigs.  I usually don’t lose when I’m at an auction; especially when I have my mind set on something.  There were about 100 pigs up for sale.  I was bound to win at least one.  As I looked around, I counted about 150 people at the sale. I had no idea there were this many people interested in buying pigs.  Of course, any good competitor analyzes their competition.  I watched carefully and analyzed each person.  There was a silent older gentleman sipping on his coffee.  He had on a very well-worn John Deere cap and a farm embroidered Carhart jacket with some worn work gloves in his back pocket.  He looked like he had been on the farm all his life, sporting the rugged, hardworking look.  He also looked like he knew what he was doing.  So I followed him for a while, observing and pretending I knew what I was doing.  He would walk around the pens and write notes on his paper.  I kept trying to get a look at what he was writing?  Maybe I can copy it, like a test in school.  Did number 35 have cute ears? Check!  Does number 11 have a curly tail?  Check!  What is he writing?  I never did find out.  But I too wrote down some notes.  Number 17 doesn’t look too dirty.  Number 2 plays nice with his pen mates.

But it was the little brown-eyed boy about ten years old who brought a smile to me and warmed my heart.  He was tapping the behinds of every little pig and looking up at his dad begging the question, “Can I get this one?”  His dad would nod and say, “That’s a nice one.  Add it to your list.”  I just knew that this little boy was going to go home, feed and care for this pig and take good care of it for his 4H Project.

I soon snapped out of my feel good mood, put on my competitive boots, and was ready to take action in the bidding wars.  It was time to get my head in the game.  Toughen up, Jodi.  This is business.  I continued to watch as people entered the sale barn.  I silently thought, yep, I can take these people out.  My confidence was building.  I can do this!   I can outbid them and win the best pig!  I took a deep breath and suddenly reality hit me as I realized I have no clue what I am doing!

The anxiety increased as soon as the auction began.  My confidence was long gone.  I was in awe at how fast the bidding was going and the number of bidders in the room.  My head was spinning.  Hands were flying in the air and what started out at $100 was fast approaching $300 and some a lot higher.  With nearly 100 head of pigs to sell, I thought I better regroup.  I consulted with my Norman County Fair Friend and he said, “Don’t worry; we’ll get you a pig.  We’ll wait till the end when they get less expensive”.  So I waited, not patiently.

And I waited… and waited….  The last of the pigs were coming up for sale and the prices were still very high.  My nerves were getting the best of me.  What am I going to do?  We need some pigs at the Ag Education Center.

After 20 pens of pigs were auctioned off, we were on the last pen.  I was giving up hope.  But I knew my favorite cute eared pig number 35 was up for sale and I wanted it.  I tapped my friend on the leg and said, “That’s the one, number 35.  I want it”.  So it began.  The bidding started low and we were in.  But I soon realized the little brown-eyed boy was my competition.  He was sitting in the front row, directly across from me.  With a large grin on his face, he was raising his bid number 141 high in the air with his dad proudly sitting behind him, letting the boy buy his own pig.  The price was increasing steadily and I was soon out of the bidding.  I watched in silence and was secretly cheering on the brown-eyed boy hoping he was going to ‘win’.  I didn’t think the boy’s smile could get any bigger until I heard the auctioneer say “SOLD, to bidder number 141″.

The sale ended.  Within minutes, the 100 little pigs were separated from their litter mates and hauled away to their new homes.  Sadly, I was going home without a pig.

As I drove home in the torrential rain, I was somewhat disappointed in not winning a pig.   I really thought I was going to win.  But, I reflected on the day and had a smile on my face as I envisioned the older gentleman taking his six pigs he won home to his grandkids and showing them how to feed and care for the animals.  I envisioned the brown-eyed boy playing with this pig for the next couple of months and grooming it and taking care of it and winning the Grand Champion ribbon at the county fair.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, “Plan B’ was already in place thanks to my friends at Wright County Fair and Norman County Fair.  I am confident we will have pigs in the Ag Education Center.  The auction experience was by far an experience that caused me anxiety – but I wouldn’t change it a bit.  (Well maybe I could do without the wind and rain.)  I do know that I am looking forward to the day I can say “I WON a Pig!”

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About Jodi Buresh

Jodi has a passion for Fairs and has been in her current position as the Assistant General Manager at the Red River Valley Fair Association since 2008. In her AGM role, Jodi works with volunteers, sponsors, promotions and social media.... and can make a great batch of popcorn for all the staff! But this isn't the only time she has worked at the Fair. Jodi also worked at the Fair from 1990-1995 in various positions including Livestock Coordinator to Big Iron Farm Show Coordinator. Jodi absolutely loves cheese curds…specifically garlic flavored cheese curds. She is a self described "slightly obsessive compulsive organizer and cleaner". She truly enjoys the Ag Education Center and strives to educate everyone on where our food comes from...The Farm!