A friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook: “Employers out there, if you want a responsible, smart, dedicated employee, hire someone who was a 4-H kid!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Every August, Cherryland heads to the 4-H livestock auction at the Northwestern Michigan Fair to purchase a few pigs. It offers us a unique opportunity to help feed our community while supporting kids who are learning really valuable skills.

Prior to the auction, buyers can walk through the swine barn visiting with the 4-H kids (and their pigs). It’s one of the highlights of my year.

These kids are smart, dedicated and hardworking. They can tell you the perfect protein percentage to help a pig quickly gain weight and what grains and additives the pigs enjoy. They spend countless hours preparing to show their pigs at the fair. They put time into marketing them to potential buyers. It’s a lot of work.

The work they put into raising and marketing their pigs helps them build real-life skills.

Emily Thiel raised one of the pigs we purchased this year. Emily and I chatted before the auction.

Emily told me that she really enjoys raising pigs because they are clean and playful; they make good companions. She explained to me that pigs are misunderstood because everyone assumes they’re dirty. She joked that now when people say, “You’re such a pig!” she responds with a sincere, “Thanks!”

She was quite the salesperson, which is probably why I ended up buying her pig for $0.50/lb more than my top budget. I’m pretty sure that particular skill will serve her well in the future.

If I had a daughter, I would hope that she was as poised and delightful as Emily.

When Cherryland purchases pigs at the fair, we donate them to local food pantries. This year both of our pigs are going to Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan, a Goodwill program. They distribute fresh, healthy foods to 48 local pantries and community meal programs.

One of our core values as a cooperative is commitment to community. We believe it is our responsibility as a local, member-owned organization to make our community better.

The 4-H livestock auction offers us a unique opportunity to take care of our community. While the donation of the meat makes an immediate impact, helping to build the next generation of community stewards will make an impact well into the future.

If the students, like Emily, I chat with at the fair are any indication, our community will be in very good hands.