CASA GRANDE — Pongo was a squirming, squealing 100-pound piglet when Casa Grande Union High School sophomore Victoria Greer, 15, purchased him in October.
He now weighs in at a hefty 240 pounds and Greer hopes that he’ll gain another 30 pounds or more before the Pinal County Fair opens in March.
“My goal is to have him weigh 270 when I take him to the fair and sell him,” she said.
For Greer, who hopes to become a veterinarian, raising an animal through the school’s FFA program is part of a learning process.
She takes part in the Veterinary Science competition with the FFA team and said the agriculture curriculum gives her the opportunity to raise livestock — something she wouldn’t have a chance to do without the school or FFA.
As Greer doesn’t live on a farm, the school provides her with a livestock pen to house her pig. She arrives at school early each day to feed and care for the animal and stays late most days to work with him and get him ready for the show ring.
“He’s shy, so the more experience I get working with him the better he’ll do at the fair,” she said. “I walk with him every day so that we look good in the ring.”
Greer moved to Casa Grande from Las Vegas when she was in the eighth grade. She had never worked with livestock or spent much time on a farm before enrolling in CGUHS’s FFA program as a freshman.
“I wanted to learn more about animals and it seemed like this would be a fun program,” she said.
Last year, as a freshman, Greer raised her first farm animal, a pig named Pickles.
“I love pigs and thought I should try to raise one,” she said.
By raising Pickles, Greer learned about swine anatomy, care and proper feeding. She spent months coaxing her pig to gain weight.
She also had her first experience giving an injection to an animal. When Pickles became sick, she purchased antibiotics and gave him a shot.
“I had never done anything like that before,” she said. “We learn so much in FFA. It teaches us life skills like leadership as well as mechanics and doing the things needed to raise an animal. Learning to give a pig a shot is something I’d never thought I’d do while still in high school.”
Last year, Greer attended the Pinal County Fair with Pickles, where she had her first experience in the show ring.
She walked away with a fifth-place ribbon for showmanship and third-place finish in Market Class for Pickles. Her pig was sold at the fair for $350.
“Selling Pickles at the fair was the hard part. It was sad, but it’s part of the process,” she said.
The experience of raising and selling livestock was such a positive one, she wanted to do it again this year.
She purchased Pongo in the fall.
“He’s a dark cross-breed pig,” she said. “I named him after a character in a book for preschoolers. After raising Pickles last year, I wanted another name that begins with P.”
Greer planned to take Pongo to an FFA field day hosted by Coolidge FFA students, then in mid-March, she’ll take the animal to the Pinal County Fair, and she hopes he gains enough weight to sell for a good price.
“I’ve learned so much from raising pigs, and not just about pigs,” she said. “Being in FFA and being responsible for an animal, you learn so much about making repairs, and how to connect with animals so that when I go into the show ring with him, he does what I want him to do.”
While she appreciates the learning aspect of FFA and raising animals, she said the camaraderie among the FFA members is one of the best parts of the program.
“Everyone helps one another and brings their own experiences to the class,” she said. “Raising animals together through FFA is a good way to bond with other students.”