Sep 08, 2023
Director of Communications
Showing Pigs Helps Pleasantville Youth Develop Leadership Skills
THE IOWA STATE FAIR... "nothing compares" to the mouth-watering food on a stick, larger-than-life concerts and thrilling trips down the giant slide. The fair is the single largest event in Iowa, drawing in more than a million visitors each year. It's been running for 169 years and is still recognized as one of the world's largest livestock shows.
Recent high school graduate Jonah Schumacher of Pleasantville grew up knowing he wanted to show pigs. "I began showing through 4-H at the Marion County Fair," said Jonah. "It easily turned into my Supervised Agricultural Education (SAE) project for FFA."
Though the Iowa State Fair is not new to the Schumacher family (Jonah's mom is a past Iowa Pork Princess), 2023 was the first year Jonah was able to show his breeding hogs at the state level through FFA. "Showing pigs has changed over the years," reflected Ryan, Jonah's father and a member of Key Cooperative. "Showing at the state fair level today is not about feed efficiency and meat quality, like it was when I showed."
The process of determining which pigs Ryan and Jonah will take to the county and state fairs begins in March. They evaluate their pigs each week. In April or May, they start to practice walking, so the animals are used to the "show feel." Ryan and Jonah also ensure the pigs' bedding is always clean to keep their skin and hair in tip-top shape. Come state fair time, the Schumachers stick to a consistent schedule.
"Everyone is doing the same things to prepare, but in a little different way," said Jonah. "We have success with a schedule that is the same for the pigs every day at the fair." And what is that schedule? Feed, weigh, walk, rinse and repeat! "Pigs are very smart animals," added Ryan. "They know the routine and what to expect next."
Mentoring and an entrepreneurial spirit are two strengths that have helped Jonah become a stronger leader. Jonah has a soft spot for mentoring youth, especially those interested in livestock. "Marion County has a program called Pee Wee Swine Showmanship," said Jonah, "The goal is to introduce kids to showing animals who may never have the means or opportunity to do so." The program pairs a child up with a mentor prior to the Marion County Fair. The "pee wee” gets to go to their mentor’s farm to learn about caring for the animal and how to show it in a ring. This year, Marion County had 14 mentor/pee wee pairs who participated in the fair.
Jonah and Ryan recently established Red Rock Show Pigs and are committed to breeding and raising purebred pigs. This past March, they took 15 pigs to the Marion County sale barn and sold them all to buyers in seven Iowa counties and Illinois. “I really enjoy being there when the pigs are born, raising them, then being at the sale barn to meet our customers,” said Jonah. “I even got to see some of our customers make it in the top 10 at the Iowa State Fair this year!”
Key Cooperative is pleased to congratulate Jonah on receiving the Mark Pearson FFA Leadership Scholarship from DMACC! This scholarship is awarded to just 15 qualified Iowa FFA Chapter Presidents each year.
Jonah is a mentor with Marion County’s Pee Wee Swine Showmanship program, which gives kids the chance to learn about livestock and show pigs at the county fair.
Jonah and Ryan take their pigs to the local sale barn each March, where they meet new customers.
Year-round, Jonah and Ryan make sure their pigs’ bedding is always clean so their skin and hair are primed for showtime.