The youth swine sale was held Oct. 20 at the Hillsborough County Fair in the Greater Brandon community of Dover, drawing students from schools throughout the Tampa Bay area.
The sights were as to be expected, fat pigs, determined students, eager bidders, a spirited auctioneer and T-shirts driving home the point that for the most die-hard of fair attendees, it's a night for speaking out for agriculture.
"Boar Hunting," read one T-Shirt. "Someone has to bring home the bacon."
Toward that end, Grace Pipkins and Kristina Guciardo, seniors from Sickles High School, took to the task of showing their pigs, named "Debbie" and "Pancakes," respectively.
Drawing $2.25 a pound, Debbie, at 222 pounds, sold for pennies shy of $500. Pancakes, weighing in at 263 pounds, fetched $2 a pound, for just over $500.
That raising pigs for slaughter could cause an emotional reaction is not lost upon the Sickles seniors, who related that experience helps you get over that hurdle.
"My first year it was a little hard to say goodbye but this year, this is just the way life is," Pipkins said. "I know she's going to be good meat for someone, mamma raised her right."
"The first time it was more emotional," added Guciardo. "But this year I wasn't as emotionally connected."
Their teacher, and FFA advisor, Jessica Story, listened on, recounting as well her similar experiences as a student, raising and showing three pigs and a steer. Story is a 2005 graduate of Sickles High.
"I couldn't be more blessed than to be back at Sickles High School," she said. "I love the [FFA] program, that's where my heart is, and that's where my alma mater is."
Story said about 15 students from Sickles have been showing "everything except cows" at the 2012 Hillsborough County Fair. That would be "pigs, pygmy goats, rabbits, chicken and sheep," she said.
Parting with their animals is, Story said, a tough thing for some students.
"For some, this is their pet, they spend a lot of time raising them, they become their friends, so it is hard," she said. "But [the students] have a good understanding of agriculture, that this is what our industry is about. They know they need to feed the world."
Pipkins and Guciardo said they wore pink pig hats, purchased at a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, to the swine sale because, as Guciardo put it: "We bet more buys with pretty hats."
Both students said they agreed with fair officials who said participating in the Hillsborough County Fair is good practice for the much larger Florida State Fair in Tampa and the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City.
At the Hillsborough County Fair, "They give you good tips, it's smaller, and they show you how to do things properly," Pipkins said. "They give you good advice for the next time, so you can improve."
Guciardo said the county fair is "easier, it's not as much competition." Showing here, she added, "is not as much stress and they help you out more."