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Summer with 4-H: a 259-pound pig, a blue ribbon and lots of hustle

Trevor Beats is not your average kid attached to his phone.

His source of attachment: a pig named Gordy.

The 11-year-old from Marilla spent the summer mastering the skills of nurturing a pig, from twice-a-day feedings to evening walks to nighttime baths.

The bond between Trevor and Gordy began in April, with an 80-pound pig and a commitment to the 4-H swine program, and ended at the Erie County Fair this month with a 259-pound animal, a blue ribbon and correspondence with the president of the United States. 

For a time this summer, Trevor and Gordy, named after the talking pig in the '90s movie of the same name, seemed inseparable.

“Gordy knows he belongs to me,” Trevor said as the two arrived at the Erie County Fair last week. He scrubbed down his pig with a loofah sponge and massaged it with a coat of body lotion to give it a healthy shine in preparation for the 4-H Swine Show. 

Trevor Beats practices "showing" Gordy in his yard in preparation for the Erie County Fair. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

The program, presented by the 4-H Youth Development Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County, is a learning experience for adolescents to develop leadership and responsibility. 

In the Swine Show, pigs are judged on appearance and showmanship. So it was wasn’t exactly faith that brought Trevor and Gordy together, but the pig’s strong physical build, said Debbie Beats, Trevor's grandmother.

"You want the pig to grow up with a broad chest and a big behind," she said. "Not a 'fashion-model'-looking pig.”

Raising a pig requires a routine of responsibilities, such as keeping track of Gordy’s feed and weighing him regularly. It also included training two or three hours a day.

The show, Debbie Beats said, is essentially a test of how well the owner is in control.

“It’s about keeping your eye contact with the judge, while driving your pig at a steady pace and keeping its head up from the ground,” she said.

Trevor Beats, 11, of Marilla, shows Gordy their championship ribbon after returning to their stall in the swine barn. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Trevor's first year in the competition earned him a blue championship ribbon for showmanship in the novice division. It also netted him about $1,600 after the 259-pound pig was sold at auction for $6.25 a pound – well above market price.

Learning to creatively sell a pig is part of the experience, Debbie Beats said, and children are encouraged to reach out to potential buyers.

Trevor had a creative idea for a potential buyer: President Trump's son Barron, who is 12. Trevor wrote him a letter, inviting him to the auction. He didn't make the sale – but he did receive a letter from the president thanking him for the invitation.

The summer, Trevor said, was a time-consuming experience, but taught him persistence.

“I just had to keep hustling," Trevor said. "There wasn’t a single day where I didn’t take care of the pig."

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