Pork princess enjoys week of service



Jackson County fairgoers who haven’t spent a lot of time around farm animals provide an opportunity for a little education from those who have.

Kiley Sons, who was named the 2018 Jackson County Pork Princess on Saturday, can be one of those go-to people for questions about a big sector of agriculture.

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“I love coming and see all the people experience the animals,” the 13-year-old Dudleytown youth said. “Some people may not get to see that every day.”

As the pork princess, Sons also is responsible for helping fellow swine exhibitors and serving as a liaison between contestants and pork producers.

Helping the other participants is a highlight for Sons. There’s always something to do and someone to help, she said.

“I make sure everything with pigs is going all right and help someone if they need it,” Sons said. “If they have multiple pigs and they need to take them to the show arena, then I can help them.”

It’s quite a process for a girl to become pork princess, she said.

Fair organizers first ask 11- to 15-year-old female participants in swine showing to take a test to show their knowledge of swine.

The test includes knowing the top 10 swine breeds, basics of swine, how they should be raised and more.

Pork producers then interview candidates and announce the winner during an open show Saturday, where the pork princess is announced.

Sons couldn’t believe her name was called when it was announced last week.

“I said, ‘Are you sure you called my name?’” she said with a grin. “I wasn’t expecting it.”

Sons had tried for the honor the last two years.

“It just feels good because I’ve been trying really hard and finally got it,” she said.

Sons has become familiar with pigs since she began raising and showing them when she was 8, and it’s that kind of knowledge that earned her the title.

“My grandpa has had pigs forever, and my mom was a 10-year 4-H member,” she said, adding she and her brother, Colin, showed nine pigs at the fair this year. “When I was a peewee showman, I went over and saw pigs and knew I wanted to do it.”

The family breeds their own swine on the farm, so breeding has to be done at a specific time for them to be ready for showing. They currently have about 15 swine altogether.

“We take them off their mom a little early to put them on feed and get them started,” she said. “We will walk them and make sure they’re able to walk well and feed them really good foods.”

Showing is a passion for Sons, and the camaraderie among other showers helps create a positive environment for showing.

“It’s really fun because you get to experience everyone and how your pig is and get to spend time with everyone,” she said.

Logan Baker, 12, of Vallonia agreed and said he enjoys that aspect of showing, as well.

“It’s fun being out there for the competition, and a lot of my friends show, too,” he said while waiting with his pig, Donnie, for the Duroc barrow show Tuesday. “It’s fun going out there and working with the pigs.”

Baker prepares for showing hogs by walking the pigs as much as he can.

“I’m always walking and working with them all the time,” he said.

He began showing pigs four years ago when his mother’s boss suggested it to him.

“I tried it during an open show and liked it, so I decided to keep doing it,” he said, noting he has three pigs total. “I want to keep doing it.”

Judges for the shows are helpful, too, Sons said.

“The judge yesterday was really helpful because he would tell you what you needed to do,” she said.

The judge this year explained everything during the show, she said, which expands her knowledge and prepares for future shows.

Sons already has plans to use what she learned this year to improve for next year’s show. Her gilts were too muscular, and she plans to make some adjustments.

“It’s nice to know how we can improve for next year,” she said.

There are many lessons to learn from showing animals, Sons said, but the most important benefit is building character and teaching people to respect others and their animals.

“It teaches you a lot of responsibility and how you should treat people and your animals,” she said.

There’s a simple, familiar principle one has to follow while caring for their animals, she said.

“Treat them the way you want to be treated,” she said. “If you’re really bad with animals, they won’t cooperate with you, and the pigs will get stressed out and things won’t end well.”

Sons is the daughter of Jeremy and Jessica Sons. Baker is the son of Gary and Amy Baker.

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