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Posted 9/18/2013 4:04pm by Monique Russ.

Us & FionaOn Saturday, August 24th, 2013 my husband and I went to the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe to watch Fiona Lyle show 2 of Miss Pig Pig’s babies. Fiona purchased these pigs from us earlier this spring for her 4H and FFA programs, and she’s been raising and showing her pigs with the hope of getting to the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. Since we support both programs we went to watch her compete in the Fit & Show Class for both 4H and FFA. This competition demonstrates the qualities of the hog, but also the showmanship and abilities of their handler.

Ben and I have never been to a pig show before – we’ve walked thru the barns, sure, but we’ve never actually watched people show their pigs, so this was a treat for us. This is also the first year we’ve ever sold weanlings for a 4H or FFA project (not for lack of trying), so it was definitely exciting to see pigs produced by our farm at the fair. These are ¾ Berkshire and ¼ Chester White pigs out of our beloved Miss Pig Pig who produces friendly, very nicely built pigs, and Fiona has done a great job in raising and training them.

Pigs are highly intelligent animals and they're easily trained, so I was eager to see how well the pigs would react and listen in the show pen. With all the commotion going on around them these kids had to control their pigs around the show ring, demonstrate what they thought were their animals best qualities, and get these pigs to show their bodies in a certain way to the judge. It was easy to tell which handlers didn’t spend enough time with their pigs, and some kids had pigs that were too young to be shown (in my opinion) because they weren’t able to control them effectively. Most of the handlers were able to control them (as much as you can expect anyway), but it was frustrating to see how many of these kids were actually afraid of them! Having the judge shout out that the kids needed to be careful with the pigs interracting with another for fear "they'll eat one another" blew us away. This judge says he's been in the business for years - well why in the world would you make such outrageous claims!?

There’s no doubt pigs are large animals and to someone that doesn’t know their wonderful personalities and calm dispositions they can be very intimidating just because of their sheer size. Take Miss Pig Pig for example –she’s about 750lbs, taller than my waist, and she’s got a lot of power in her, but she's a big baby. Pigs are gentle giants in most cases. Just like dogs it all depends on how they’re raised, treated, and whether or not you respect them.

Now, on to Fiona and her pigs…she did an outstanding job in the show ring! Seriously, she’s got talent!! There were quite a few good competitors, but I honestly have to say we thought she was the best presenter and handler because she was listening to what the judges were telling her, she was able to move her pigs and display them as asked, and she was always focused on the judge and getting her pigs out in view of him. I’ll be honest in that I don’t know anything about showing pigs, but I’ve been told that one of the biggest objectives while you’re in the show ring is to get your pig noticed.

While pigs are easy to handle and train on the farm it’s a little more difficult when you have a show ring full of rambunctious and excited pigs. They’ve been cooped up all night and they’re excited and nervous by their new surroundings and all their new playmates. (One of the best parts was watching the pigs bolt into the show ring and start running around and barking.) Fiona did a fantastic job of keeping her pigs under control, and despite having some little pigs interfering with her own she was able to keep her pigs' attention and focus on her and what she was asking of it.

Fiona did an exceptional job with her pigs and watching her was exciting. Her best quality as far as my husband and I are concerned was her willingness to get in between the pigs when needed. Pigs are curious by nature and these guys often wanted to play or check each other out, but Fiona wasn’t afraid to put herself between two pigs to break them up. If a bigger pig was trying to push hers, she stepped in and moved the pigs apart. Unfortunately, she was the ONLY handler there that wasn’t afraid to do this. When raising animals you can’t be afraid of them or to get involved when it’s needed, and this trait will carry her far in her dreams of becoming a vet. We had a great time watching the show and it was fun to be a part of it. We were so happy for her when both her pigs won Grand Champion in Fit and Show at the Evergreen State Fair in both the FFA and 4H division! Congrats to Fiona!!  She definitely deserved it, she worked hard for it, and we were proud that she was the one showing pigs born and bred on our small farm.

Fiona went on to show at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup on September 16th, and she won blue ribbons for both her hogs. She was competing against 14 of the best competitors and farms in the State, and even though she didn’t win grand champion we’re extremely proud of her. She stole the show at Evergreen! She is an energetic and remarkable young lady and she has a gift and natural ability around animals, and we have no doubt that if she chooses to she’ll go on to make a wonderful vet. I wish there were more kids like her that were passionate about animals and involved in FFA.


Posted 4/9/2013 4:17pm by Monique Russ.

Ben @ Whole Foods

Yesterday my husband, Ben, joined Cascade Harvest Coalition at the Lynnwood Whole Foods Market to help promote our farm and the work of Cascade Harvest Coalition (CHC). Ben spent his time discussing our farm, the Puget Sound Farm Guide, and the fantastic work CHC does for our region.

Sheryl Wiser at Cascade Harvest Coalition has been instrumental in helping us get our name “out there.” She’s given me advice on social networking, how to present our farm and products, provided us with networking opportunities, public exposure via special events, and has passed on program information to help make our farm more successful. This is what CHC is all about – helping farmers succeed by providing them with the tools to do so, and by connecting "farmers to farmers, farmers to markets, and farmers to eaters.”

CHC is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to “re-localizing”food by connecting consumers and producers. Many people are not aware how easy it is to buy local farm fresh food, and CHC does a great job of educating the public thru various means. One way they do this is via the Puget Sound Farm Guide which is a treasure trove unto itself if you are looking for farms to buy from. This pamphlet has an extensive list of farms in the Puget Sound area. It summarizes the products they sell, provides information and descriptions of these farms, harvest celebrations and special events, and contains information on all of our local Farmer’s Markets. The 2013 guide should be out in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes out for it. (You can also find it at http://www.pugetsoundfresh.org/farm-guide-news.asp or contact CHC for more information.) Another great tool for consumer education is one of their programs called Puget Sound Fresh which has searchable listings of local farms and farm products, what’s in season, recipes, etc. Check it out at www.pugetsoundfresh.org

Cascade Harvest Coalition has other programs devoted to getting local farm fresh food to consumers, and even a program to help preserve farmland by keeping it in the hands of farmers and providing farmers with a solution to owning their own land. I would highly encourage you to check out their website to learn more www.cascadeharvest.org Educating yourself on why, how, and where to buy food produced from local farmers is invaluable and it’s an important step in eating healthier foods. 

Posted 10/13/2012 4:48pm by Monique Russ.

This past Saturday was Sultan’s annual Sky Valley Farm Festival, and our first year as a participating farm. This festival is held the second weekend in October and showcases the 3 main operating farms in Sultan – River’s End Cattle Ranch, Groeneveld’s Dairy, and Stocking’s Garden & Nursery.

Because our farm is so far away from the main event River’s End Cattle Ranch was kind enough to allow us to participate by letting us “bring our farm to them.” They're wonderful people, and they provided us with a fantastic spot which allowed us to setup an educational booth and a big enough area to showcase our farm’s mascot and beloved pet “Miss Pig Pig” along with her 12 babies. She was fantastic as always, and was a huge hit with the all the kids and even the adults.

Our educational booth was overflowing with educational material, pictures of our farm, free recipes, and more. We created and handed out our very own kid’s activity pack which included a word search with definitions, and pictures of our farm converted into coloring pages. Balloons…we handed out a ton of free balloons to all the kids that visited us, and they could be seen all over the participating farms. Yea!

Miss Pig Pig and her babies were showered with attention, and all the kids loved feeding her strawberries and apples. Poor girl ended up with a tummy ache which thankfully was quickly relieved with fresh cut corn stalks and her supplemental grain. Parents were amazed that such a giant pig (615 lbs) could be fed by their one year old babies, and many were quickly relieved and surprised when they saw how delicate she was with their kids. She is so calm and patient, and has such a wonderful temperament (as do all of our pigs) that she was eager to be pet by everyone and was very engaging with her audience.

The Sky Valley Farm Festival has only been going on for about 4 years now, but it’s a great event where people can learn about farms and where their food comes from. It’s a fun way to spend the day with family and friends touring real working farms, watching demonstrations, browsing the concessions and vendor booths with lots of opportunities for kids to partake in different activities. Personally, my husband and I enjoyed being a part of it by sharing our farm, meeting people, and educating everyone that braved the rain to visit us. We’ll be back next year, and we’re looking forward to it. It’s a year away, but we hope you’ll come out and meet us and Miss Pig Pig at next year’s festival.

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