By Scott Becker
At about midnight on July 6, after three-and-a-half months of anticipation, Terina Montgomery’s sow began to give birth to her first piglet.
An hour and 48 minutes later there were 10 new additions to the FFA Land Lab at Hood River Valley High School. Montgomery’s pig Louisa, or Mama Pig as she prefers to be called, has been penned at the land lab for about 10 months.
The idea for the FFA project of keeping pigs at the high school came from Danielle Bondurant and FAA adviser Megan Prewitt.
“We started the project this year and now more and more people are getting involved,” Prewitt said of the project, which is being done for the first time in school history.
FFA formerly stood for Future Farmers of America. But now the organization has broadened its focus to include agricultural awareness, building leadership skills, personal growth and success in whatever career a student may go in to. The organization is now simply referred to as FFA.
Bondurant, a 2002 graduate, needed a place to keep her pig, Bess.
“I had the idea of keeping her at the high school,” she said, “so Miss Prewitt talked with the high school administration about it. I wanted to do something big with my last year of high school, and this project is what came out of that.”
Prewitt explained that Bondurant was required to write a proposal to the administration expressing what need this project would serve and how she would solve any problems that might arise.
Bondurant, Montgomery and other FFA members built three outdoor grazing pens as well as an indoor pen, an outdoor shelter and an irrigation system to convert the shed on the west side of the school so it could become suitable for raising animals.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the community,” Bondurant said. “Hood River Ford donated $1,000 to get us started, and a lot of friends have helped build and stuff.”
The project has expanded to involve five FFA members and 11 animals, three sheep and seven pigs, not including the new arrivals.
“Now that FFA is not focusing on training farmers, there are a lot more kids from in town who are getting involved and they don’t have any other places to keep their animals,” Prewitt said. “And it helps them be more organized because they need to keep a schedule of when they need to be here and have to work together with the other kids that are using it.
“They also have to buy the animal, and its food and spend all their own money taking care of it. Then they get what ever money they make when the animal is sold at the fair,” she said.
Since the beginning of this project, many of the participants have had to spend much of their spare time with it. For Montgomery, this has been especially true since the birth of the new pigs, which she performed with the help of Bondurant.
“When they’re born, they need to be separated for about 10 hours and they need to be fed every two hours,” Montgomery explained. “Their teeth need to be clipped. The males need to be castrated. They need iron shots, worming shots, and vaccination shots.”
Montgomery is no stranger to the work or the process of raising piglets. This is the second litter of piglets she has had to work with this year.
Louisa gave birth to 12 piglets last February and Montgomery had them sold by March. The immediate plan for the Land Lab is more animals.
“We’re going to build a fence around the field to make a pasture for four ewes,” Prewitt said.
Louisa’s piglets will be on display at the Hood River County Fair July 31 through Aug. 3, but will not be up for sale until the following week. FFA has shows from 5-8 p.m. on Aug. 1-2. The FFA Auction will be Friday, Aug. 2 starting at 6:30 p.m.