Madison Whitmore feeds her pig every morning, but Saturday, the Grant County High School junior had to make mud so the hog could cool off in the sweltering heat.
“We go and put mud in its pen so it can roll around and cool off,” she said.
Whitmore belongs to 4-H, a group that helps youth develop organizational, entrepreneurial and agricultural skills.
Whitmore, the president of her 4-H club, is in her sixth year in the group.
“It’s been a really good learning experience,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot of organizing and how to be a better leader.”
Whitmore said 4-H is teaching her about budgeting and preparing for the future.
The youth in 4-H buy their animals and pay for the feed. To present a lean, good-looking pig at the fair, they use high-quality feed, which is $5 to $10 more a bag.
According to Whitmore’s stepfather, Justin May, raising a pig can cost upwards of $600 to $700. The kids can usually sell the hog at the livestock auction at the fair for double the market price, especially if the youth wins a ribbon.
And as a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the Grant County Fair in the coming weeks with an uptick in COVID-19 cases and stricter phase two guidelines, Whitmore said she has been worried that she will not make the money she has paid out all year at the fair.
“I’ve been scared that I won’t get enough money to pay for all my pig food during the fair,” she said. “So I’ve been trying to make sure I have enough money saved so I have money, extra money, just in case that happens.”
To save that money, Whitmore said she has been babysitting Mondays through Thursdays and working side jobs, such as mowing lawns and taking care of animals around the neighborhood.
The livestock auction also helps kids save money for college.
Whitmore said she is thinking about going to Montana State University to become an equine veterinarian, and then take farrier classes to learn how to shoe horses.
For now, Whitmore said, her goal is to earn a ribbon at the fair this year.
“I’ve worked very hard ever since I started 4-H to get the grand champion in showmanship,” she said. “And I’ve been working so hard for so many years that each year it scares me to think about, what if I don’t get it. I’m going to be so disappointed because I put in so much hard work to try to get it.”