By KATE LUFKIN
Special to the Inter Lake
All students participating in the 4-H and FFA Market Livestock Sale during the Northwest Montana Fair have been working with their lambs, hogs or beef for months in preparation for the sale ring, but for Abby Fritz, a 17-year-old junior at Glacier High School, the work around raising and selling livestock has become a year-round venture.
For generations, Abby’s family has been involved with the Market Livestock Sale, so when she was old enough to start a project of her own she was well-prepared to enter the show ring with a top-quality hog. During the first years Abby fell into the pattern of most students, feeding and working with her animal starting early spring, showing her animal against other 4-H and FFA students during the week of the fair, and then selling her hog on Saturday when dozens of businesses and individuals fill the Trade Center at the fairgrounds to purchase the students’ animals.
Beyond consistently performing well each year at the Fair, Abby has become someone 4-H and FFA participants to look up to, since she now provides many of them with hogs of their own.
“One year my FFA adviser came up to me and asked if I had ever thought about raising hogs in addition to showing. I hadn’t really, so when I looked further into it and brought it up with my dad he was a little surprised, but I got a sow and have been raising hogs now every year,” said Abby.
Abby markets her young hogs to 4-H and FFA students through Facebook, fliers around the Agricultural Education Center and to the individual 4-H clubs across Northwest Montana.
At this year’s Fair, Abby will be competing with her own hog against five of the ones she bred.
“I’m competing against those animals, but more, I’m trying to help them also. I want to make all of them top-level hogs.”
She said she wouldn’t mind losing to one of her own hogs either.
Lincoln County and Lake County will each have two of the hogs Abby bred in their sales as well.
As the junior hog superintendent at this year’s fair, Abby will help her fellow hog students before the market and showmanship classes and Saturday’s sale, but she’s been working to help others create top-quality hogs year-round.
“Two years ago I decided to host a public clinic with my friend Morgan Baker to explain showmanship skills, clipping, bathing, and more,” she said. “This year we got more in-depth, too, about what is expected at the fair, what the judge is looking for, and how to perform well in the ring in addition to the basics.”
The Trade Center was full of students and their families wanting to learn from Abby and Morgan, significantly increasing their attendance from the 30 people who participated the first year.
Parents of other ag students speak highly of Abby and Morgan’s hog clinics, saying how the program is needed in the community and has been one of the most valuable tools for their kids to perform better with their hog.
As Abby is preparing to close her FFA career next year, she is already making plans to continue her clinic and breeding programs while looking to attend Montana State University and pursue the veterinary science program.
Kate Lufkin is the marketing and communications manager for the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.