MENOMONIE, Wis. – Jack Edwards of rural Colfax can't play sports because radiation treatments he had for cancer as a child stunted the growth of his hips. The 15-year-old's hips are the size of a third-grader's.
But the high school sophomore has found another passion, which he is demonstrating at this week's Dunn County Fair.
"I love showing pigs," Edwards said. "I can't play sports. This is my sport. It is what I put my time and effort into. It's fun to be competitive with friends at the fair."
Edwards enjoys the competition and camaraderie that come with showing pigs.
Edwards is one of the founders of the Northern Wisconsin Show Pig Circuit, which started this spring. He also has shown pigs at the Dunn County Fair, which runs through Sunday, since he was 8 years old. Swine are being judged starting this morning at the fairgrounds.
Edwards said the circuit gives youth an opportunity to work with their animals and become more familiar with showing pigs.
"It is a good way to meet new kids," Edwards said of the circuit. "I love talking to people about pigs. I'm planning on basing my career in the agriculture field."
He would either like to be a national pig region representative or work in marketing for a pig feed company.
Some people think pigs are stupid and dirty, which is not true, Edwards said.
"Pigs are one of the smarter animals on the planet," he said. "Pigs lay in the mud to keep cool because they don't have the ability to sweat."
To show pigs well you have to know how they will act, Edwards said, noting he carries a small whip to guide his pigs.
"The best thing to do with pigs is stay calm and everything will sort itself out," he said. "You get excited, and the pigs sense that. They can sense when you are getting mad."
The Northern Wisconsin circuit had two shows this year: in Ellsworth and Colfax. More locations are planned next year.
The teen has bought pigs from John Nelson, a Colfax agriculture teacher, and Roger Owen of Durand. He also breeds pigs of his own and sells them.
He got into the breeding because many of the pigs he wanted were not for sale. He has about five sows but wants to more than double that over the next couple of years.
Dunn County 4-H youth agent Jason Hausler said Edwards is already building a great reputation in the swine industry and has a bright future in it.
"He is one of the shining stars in 4-H — taking a project and developing it to the next level by contributing to the industry at large," Hausler said.
Edwards will compete at the Wisconsin State Fair in August.