4-H and FFA students reflect on raising their animals and letting go

Hunter Scott of Burbank stands inside a pen Wednesday petting his 289-pound pig named Bacon at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo in Kennewick.
Hunter Scott of Burbank stands inside a pen Wednesday petting his 289-pound pig named Bacon at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo in Kennewick. nharogomez@tricityherald.com

Eleven-year-old Alison Dragoo fell asleep on her six-month-old lamb, Kentucky — Kentucky Fried Lamb — before she got him ready for 4-H show at the Benton Franklin County Fair & Rodeo.

Alison, of Prosser, is nursing an ear infection, but the show must go on.

Future Farmers of America, or FFA and 4-H students raise their animals from birth by assisting with care, training them for shows, and eventually, saying goodbye.

Alison said sheep are stubborn, so getting them used to cleaning and training can be difficult — yet worth it. She wants to raise and train horses someday, and put her animal education to work.

“He’s crazy,” Alison said of Kentucky. “Last time I showed him, he got away three times.”

All large animals that are shown are sold at market, except for dairy cows.

Kentucky is presented in the intermediate level. Alison’s mother, Kortnie Castillo, said the program teaches Alison self-discipline.

“She’s grown in the last three years and gotten better and better; you can tell,” Castillo said.

Alison said in past years when it came time to say goodbye to her sheep, she cried. But, not this year. She’s ready for it.

“It can be really hard if you get attached to them,” Alison said.

Twelve-year-old Hunter Scott and his pig, Bacon, are quite a pair. The Burbank native raises pigs each year.

This year, his group “Country Classics” brought Bacon into his life. She is at least quadruple his size, but they got along.

Bacon’s personality is something he will miss after she’s gone.

“I like getting to be able to raise the animals,” Hunter said. “She’s just really friendly.”

Hunter said he gives the animals meat names to lighten the mood, like Bacon and Pot Roast.

The boy knows where Bacon goes when the week is over. Hunter cares for his pig, but he doesn’t fret over the loss.

“I’ve grown up around pigs for so long that it’s kind ‘ehh’ to me,” Hunter said.

Other students don’t ever want to think about saying goodbye, so they don’t.

Richland High School student Sophia Brooks chose to raise dairy cows because she wants to watch them grow up.

Sophia, 15, of Benton City, said the bond that never breaks is what she loves the most. Dairy cows do not get sold off at the end of fair week.

Sweet Pea will return to the dairy.

This year, Sophia is watching out for two-week-old Sweet Pea, a baby jersey heifer.

“They’re better than dogs in some ways,” Sophia said “You learn all of their little quirks.”

Cows aren’t always people-friendly. Sophia said she finds it rewarding to make them comfortable and sweet with others.

She plans to take an FAA class at Richland this year, she wants to continue in the animal field.

“You can get attached for life,” Brooks said.

Rachel Fradette: 509-582-1413