RUPERT — A Minidoka County family believes raising 4-H animals is so important that they drive about 25 miles – sometimes twice a day – so its city-dwelling children can experience the responsibilities and rewards that come with showing a large animal at a county fair.
“It’s totally worth it for what they learn,” said Sarah Greenwalt, mother of the Heyburn 4-H family. “The kids work hard and they love what they’re doing.”
Noah, 15, Brooklyn, 13, and Linkyn Greenwalt, 10, recently switched to showing pigs after raising in sheep previous years.
“I loved raising sheep,” Brooklyn said. “I was afraid of pigs because when I was about 8 or 9, I had a 200-pound pig come and push me into an electric fence. It traumatized me. I was very, very hesitant to do pigs.”
However, her pig Sue — and yes she comes when Brooklyn calls “Soo-ee” — has won over her heart.
Weighing in at 240 pounds, the winsome pig is good-natured.
“Pigs have more personality than sheep,” Brooklyn said. “My pig is super curious and she loves being loved. She is just the best pig.”
Linkyn was not so lucky in the pig personality department. Her pig Gertie is a bit stubborn.
The youngest member of the Greenwalt family, Gavyn, 7, does not show the bigger animals yet. But he is active in 4-H Cloverbud, raising chickens and working on other projects.
“We had a friend tell us that we could raise pigs and keep them at their place, so we are trying a new animal this year,” Sarah said. The family showed sheep in previous years, but their family friend who raised them went out of business.
The switch meant a little less money in the children’s pockets because they have to take turns putting gas in mom’s car to pay for the driving expense.
“We keep track of how many trips out here we make,” Sarah said.
It’s all part of the package, Sarah said. Making sure expenses are covered is part of the deal.
The children also pay for their own show clothes and boots if they need them.
Sarah and Josh are both adult volunteers for 4-H, and they home-school their children.
The two older kids are also active in the Minidoka County 4-H Teen Association, and Noah is president of their 4-H club, River Ranch.
Some of the projects the club did this year were archery, skiing and knitting.
The other club members made sure that Noah participated in the knitting.
“The project is still in progress,” he said, “and I’m not sure what it is.”
Noah’s pig Tucker has health problems, and he’s unlikely to make weight in time for the Minidoka County Fair, July 30 to Aug. 4.
He’s undergone several rounds of veterinarian care and medicines to help with the problem, but Tucker still hesitates to get up and walk to the feed bucket. He weighs 209 pounds, but he would need to reach at least 230 by the weigh-in date.
So what’s on Tucker’s menu to win the race against time weight? Cake mix, marshmallows and beer, Noah said.
Sarah and Josh were never in 4-H as children, but they’ve welcomed their children’s interest in the club, even if it came as a bit of a surprise.
“We ask ourselves sometimes how we got kids that love farm animals so much,” Sarah said.