It’s Swine Time

The 79th annual San Benito County Fair opens today, still driven
by the 4-H and FFA livestock competitions
For Clint Holthouse, it’s the MMF
– money, medals, and fame.
The energetic fifth grader at Sacred Heart School has lived by
his pro-business motto for three months as he has prepared
livestock for showing
– and auction – for the first time at the San Benito County
Fair.
The 79th annual San Benito County Fair opens today, still driven by the 4-H and FFA livestock competitions

For Clint Holthouse, it’s the MMF – money, medals, and fame.

The energetic fifth grader at Sacred Heart School has lived by his pro-business motto for three months as he has prepared livestock for showing – and auction – for the first time at the San Benito County Fair.

The livestock show is the essence of the fair, its spirit, and Clint, a member of San Juan 4-H, for three months has fawned over two gilts he hopes will be cleaner and more well proportioned than the others in the ring.

Since yesterday the rookie has been camped out at the paddocks behind the Pavilion ready for today’s grand opening of the 79th San Benito County Fair.

“It’s kind of fun for a kid to get money,” said Clint, 10. “What kind of kid gets $700?”

Not to mention a moment in the spotlight among the county’s finest, he admits.

Like 60 other members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America who will be showing Thursday morning, Clint has fed his pigs the finest feed, provided exercise and a nice living environment as he works to produce an animal that meets the industry’s highest standards.

His hopes are pinned on Blue Gal, a six-month old 220-pound Yorkshire-Hampshire cross who will be his partner in the showmanship category, akin to a beauty pageant for the pig and handler.

Dressed in the traditional 4-H regalia of crisp white jeans, a white button-down collar shirt, a green neckerchief and a military style wool hat, he will guide Blue Gal around an arena filled with shavings, trying to keep the pig’s best side in the judge’s view.

The handlers walk crouched, driving pigs around the arena with a cane, maintaining eye contact and a smile for the judge.

“If your pig runs away it’s hard to keep smiling,” says Clint, who spent long hours driving Blue Gal around a horse arena at his family’s home in the San Juan Canyon.

It’s as hard as it sounds. During early practices, Blue Gal took advantage of every opportunity to escape Clint’s cane so she could run to the end of the ring to root around in the mud.

Clint practiced at 4-H meetings pushing a basketball around with a cane, probably without appreciating the pigskin irony. As Blue Gal grew from 75-pounds to 200-plus, Clint improved his driving skills. He’s now confident she’ll be under control.

But fitness and driving are only two aspects of judging.

“The main thing the judge is making sure of is if the pig is spotless and shiny and as clean as can be,” said owner Nathan Copp, when Clint and his father, Brian, traveled in mid July to his Power House Farms in Los Banos to buy the pigs.

Copp, who sells about 1,000 pigs a year in 11 different states, has provided about a dozen pigs that will be shown this week at Bolado Park.

While Clint is a rookie, he’s not going into this venture without plenty of good guidance, not just from his 4-H chapter. His father, Brian Holthouse, also raised pigs in the San Juan 4-H when he was 10, taking top honors in showmanship the first year he entered.

“I was like ‘if my dad is this good, I’ve got a master here,’ let’s listen to him,” Clint said.

During an illustrious 4-H career, Brian gathered an array of awards, which he still holds onto. It’s where Clint developed his longing for medals he could keep for the rest of his life.

“That really amazed me,” Clint said. “It was like my tongue fell out. It was like a treasure box.”

Brian Holthouse knows it will be hard to keep his emotions in check as he watches his own son follow in his footsteps.

“It’s hard for me when I’m watching him,” Brian says, nervous about the upcoming show. “I just can’t sit there, but I can’t be too loud.”

While Blue Gal is the show pig, her sidekick Peppermint Patty will join her for duty in the market class judging, where judges look for a pig that has a lean body, heavy muscles, a level back and a frame that can carry its weight, not one that is over fat.

Each swine then goes to a public livestock auction at 4 p.m. Saturday, which is tough for some of the kids that have formed bonds with their animals.

“The hardest part for the first timers is probably selling the pigs because they get so attached,” says Copp. “I tell them the reason they’re raising the pig is for the market. I try to get them to remember that, but of course they do get attached.”

Of course, the money helps. The going market value of a swine is 34-cents per pound, but due to community support in the past years pigs have sold anywhere from $3 to $7 a pound.

Brad Barry of Hollister holds the record at the San Benito County Fair, bidding $27 a pound for the grand champion pig last year. Barry’s foundation, named after his late father, Sid Barry, has been buying animals at the auction since 1994.

Last year the foundation spent $22,000 buying the grand champion pig, steer and lamb for a luau that Brad Barry held for his fellow staff members at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He also invites the young people who have raised the champions and their families.

Barry said he enjoys donating money to small organizations in the community, but he has another reason for buying the animals.

“They taste good,” Barry says. “There is a big difference in a home-grown hand-raised animal and the one you buy at Nob Hill.”

Clint says he tries not to focus on the fact that Blue Gal, with whom he has shared so much, might one day end up the key ingredient in someone’s BLT. Instead he stays focused on the MMF.

“I really want to do very good and get a gold for the first year,” Clint says. “Normally people get gold their third and second year.”

Leave your comments