Wyatt McCoy enjoyed guiding his hog as others observed his showmanship skills.
Dark Shadow, a Berkshire pig, roamed around inside George P. Upton Jr. Livestock Arena with the 7-year-old during a Tuesday swine show.
“It teaches them a lot of like skills and responsibility,” his mother Kristen McCoy said about raising animals. “All of these kids in here work hard. They’re buddies. They see each other and they help each other out.
Thanks to the generosity of local businesses, youths have a new penning and show ring in which to compete. Sampson County Cooperative Extension recently recognized everyone involved in the $30,000 project. The new show arena was made possible through donations by Hog Slat, Prestage Farms Inc. and Smithfield Foods.
“It’s an exciting time for me,” said Eileen Coite, director of the Sampson Cooperative Extension, while showing appreciation. “Even though we have a tremendous livestock facility doing great things for the cattle industry, several of our young people are interested in showing hogs.”
Coite added that it was good to have a facility to do so. Conversations began about a year ago and the work began in June when concrete was poured. It was completed in mid-August. It was used for the first time on Tuesday evening.
Along with businesses, the Sampson County Cattlemen’s Corporation was a part of the project as well. Coite said it was a paradigm shift for them since they’re in the business of cows. She commended the group for showing support for the county and young people who show hogs.
“Everyone pulled together,” she said.
Zack McCullen of Prestage Farms, Inc. was one of several individuals involved with the project. He’s glad that the facility is going to benefit young people interested in agriculture.
“The young people come here and they make us really proud here in the county,” McCullen said. “We’ve got a really good facility.”
It’s mostly for cattle, but the improvements will allow participants to show pigs and other animals too. He hopes it sparks more interest in 4-H programs throughout Sampson County.
“We’re excited about it,” McCullen said. “Prestage is very happy to work with them and contribute.”
Richard Bonanno, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, said he appreciated the support of the businesses as well. He added that having young people involved in 4-H is important.
“Having the kids involved in Extension is really what got Extension off the ground in the early 1900s,” Bonanno said. “It was really difficult to educate the parents and so we started educating the kids and having them take technology home to talk about it around the dinner table.”
He added that state and federal funds don’t make up all of their budget.
“We rely on support from industry to really make everything better,” Bonanno said.
Bonanno said those relationships help youth involved with extension, especially on the 4-H side when it comes to learning about leadership.
“That’s something they’re going to take with them for the rest of their lives and it’ll make them better people, better citizens, better workers and better leaders as time goes on,” he said, while thanking all the companies involved.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.