Hog Heaven: Teen raising pigs and money for charity

Hog Heaven: Teen raising pigs and money for charity

KINGSTON — Tatianna Finch is hoping her pig will fetch something for her.

The Kingston High freshman is auctioning a 6-month-old hog at the Kitsap County Fair in Silverdale Aug. 28. Finch hopes the winning bid will bring in a sizable chunk of change, which she will donate to the ShareNet food bank and the Kingston Food Bank, via the Kingston Kiwanis Club.

“She’s a real generous youngster,” said Kingston Kiwanis trustee Bob Lee.

Finch is one of nine students in the North Kitsap School District’s Future Farmers of America program selling and showing livestock at the fair. This year will be Finch’s fourth at the event. In the past, she and her family have bought pigs themselves and donated 10 percent of the auction proceeds to Kiwanis for the food banks. This year, Finch had a new idea.

“I wanted to do more,” she said.

Finch came to Kiwanis with a request: If the club would give her the money to buy and raise a piglet, she would auction it and donate all the proceeds.

Lee and his fellow Kiwanis members regularly collect money for the two food banks, donating what they call “food bucks.” Earlier this year, the club took a special collection for Finch’s piglet.

“For a few weeks, the food bucks became pig bucks,” Kingston Kiwanis president Dale Rude said.

If Finch gets the price she’s asking at the auction, she’ll have almost $600 to give to the food banks. That’s more than double the amount Kiwanis invested for the initial purchase, feed, hay and other pig-raising expenses.

For Finch and other students in the school district’s FFA program the experience of raising livestock is multi-dimensional. Most students raise money for college by going to fairs and selling their animals or products made from the animals.

“It’s one way that students do a fundraiser where they get to put the money in their own pocket,” said Kingston High FFA adviser Nancy Rauch.

Some FFA college scholarships are only available to students after they raise an animal, Rauch said. In addition to earning money and scholarships, the students learn how to market their animals and themselves, and how to follow through on a long-term project where quality is a key concern.

“It was like a job for someone who wasn’t able to get a job yet,” said Finch, who started raising pigs before she entered seventh grade.

Students are also taught to value the sources and quality of their food through the program.

“This is about knowing your meat and knowing you’re eating humanely raised food,” Rauch said.

Audry Wytko, a senior at North Kitsap High and president of the school’s FFA program, is keenly aware of the importance of raising her animals well.

“I would take good care of it, because it’s going to go through my mouth too,” she said.

Wytko said the taste of individually raised meat surpasses that of meat raised on farms geared toward mass production because of the care each animal receives.

“I notice a big difference,” she said. “It’s partly a mental thing too, because I know where they came from and that they didn’t use chemicals.”

Knowing where the animals came from, and caring for them for several months, can sometimes give students qualms about sending their pigs to become pork chops.

“I do get attached to them,” Finch said. “They’re like dogs; they have total personalities. I remind myself from the beginning that their purpose in life is meat. I know I’m giving them a much better life than if they were on a mass-producing farm.”

Finch also keeps in mind the good she is doing by giving food to people who need it, through her contribution to the food banks and by raising the animals.

“I’m really happy knowing I’m providing my community with healthy meat,” she said.