School officials pitch in to help Derry student achieve goal
Derry Area High School senior Nathan Pollard expressed interest in raising a market hog for the Westmoreland Fair last school year, but needed help funding the up-front costs associated with his project.
Fortunately for Pollard, his school district and its superintendent share a strong commitment to agricultural education.
Superintendent David Welling talked with agriculture and horticulture instructor and FFA adviser Roy Campbell and offered Pollard a solution: Welling would sponsor the project and Pollard would be able to house the pig in a pen in the FFA barn on the school campus.
“I had been wanting to do it for a while and I just never got to,” Pollard said. “Then Dr. Welling, it was after school and he came up with the opportunity for me to do it. About a week later, we went and got the hog.”
If the hog, which they nicknamed “Champ” qualified for the fair's market sale, Pollard would repay the hog's purchase price of $100 and feed costs, donate 25 percent of the remaining profit to the school's FFA program and keep the rest. If Champ didn't make the minimum weight required for the market sale, Welling would pay Pollard for the time he spent on the project and keep the pig.
“I think Nathan realized it would be better if he could get it to go to sale than not, because he was going to make more money if it went to sale ...” Welling said. “We did the numbers and I think he realized even paying back me, paying back Mr. Campbell and donating to the FFA, he still comes out ahead.”
The arrangement worked out for all parties involved. Champ just reached the 230-pound minimum weight to qualify for the fair and sold for $1.90 per pound, enough for Pollard to turn a profit on the project.
Pollard said he learned a lot from completing his first market livestock project.
“I didn't know how to walk a pig or anything, really, about them,” Pollard said. “Mr. Campbell helped me out a lot, and then a couple of my friends that had shown hogs previously helped me learn how to walk them and stuff. Dr. Welling and I taught him to sit, too, so that was pretty cool.”
“I learned a lot,” Pollard said. “Everything from clipping the pig to walking it, feeding it, how to feed it, how much, keeping records. ... And it gives you something to be responsible for, too.”
Now, Pollard is working on plans to purchase a pig to compete at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January, and the money originally earmarked to reimburse Welling for Champ will help fund part of Pollard's new project.
“I said, ‘Rather than paying me back, I'll donate that money towards your other pig and going down to states,' because I think that's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids,” Welling said.
“It's more than just feeding an animal and taking it to the fair,” he added. “It's really an opportunity for them to really learn some skills that are going to transfer across their lives, no matter what they get involved in.”
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or firstname.lastname@example.org.