Heritage Hogs Bring in Big Bucks to Support the County Fair

Shannon Maguire raised this year's Heritage Hog to benefit the San Benito County Heritage Foundation and Bolado Park
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Hank is such a pig.

Really, Hank is a pig, and a very special pig, at that.

Hank is the latest in the lineage of Heritage Hogs that are raised, or rather pampered, by a teenager who competed against other teens for the honor of doing so. In Hank’s case, his human companion is Shannon Maguire, a senior at San Benito High School. Shannon has tended to Hank’s every need up until it was time to deliver him Sept. 29, to the San Benito County Fair, where he would be auctioned off to raise money to support Bolado Park through the San Benito County Heritage Foundation.

The auction of the three previous Heritage Hogs raised more than $165,000 that was used on various renovation projects at the park.

For a number of years, foundations have used various breeds of animals, but hogs in particular, to raise money, according to Donnette Carter, CEO of the San Benito County Fairgrounds.

“The whole idea is that a junior FFA or 4-H member raises the hog,” she said, “and as payback to them they receive a scholarship from the Heritage Foundation. Then we ask for contributions from the community to support the Heritage Hog. Support is provided in many different ways, but most contribute around $1,000.”

Carter said some of the youngsters who sell their own animals will thank their buyers by contributing to the Heritage Foundation in the buyer’s name. She said teens compete for the honor of raising the Heritage Hog by submitting an application, followed by an interview. If selected, they will represent the foundation by speaking before local clubs and organizations about what the foundation does and solicit contributions.

Carter said of Maguire: “She is so poised and well versed and has done several speaking engagements for us. In fact, today, I was at Rotary International and one of the Rotarians at my table thanked me for bringing her there last week because he enjoyed getting to meet her and felt she was a wonderful representative for the San Benito County Fair and the Heritage Foundation.”

Even though the kids who raise the Heritage Hogs receive a $1,000 scholarship, money isn’t the driving force, Carter said.

“It’s definitely about community service,” she said, “as they raise money to support the foundation and the fair. Last year, they raised around $72,000. The year before, it was in the high 50s, and I believe the year before, it was around $38,000. So Shannon is under a lot of pressure. At one point, she said she was worried because she was at only $35,000. But by the next week, she said she was at $50,000.”

Shannon said she has been involved with the 4-H Club for seven years and Future Farmers of America (FFA) four years. She became interested in 4-H after a family friend asked her to help train rescue dogs.

“Her daughter had an extra heifer that needed to be shown (at the fair),” Shannon said. “I had never done anything like that before, but I ended up showing it for her. And then when I saw pigs being shown and I knew I had to do that.”

She said the competition for the Heritage Hog project is open to any student. One important consideration was how long a student has been involved in youth agriculture organizations, such as FFA and 4-H, as well as their future educational plans because of the scholarship. They also have to write an essay about themselves. Also required are letters of recommendations from the school’s Ag advisor and an outside source. In her case it was from a local veterinarian.

Once Shannon completed the application process, she was interviewed. Needless to say, she won and she was introduce to the pink piglet—who she later named Hank—June 15, which was donated to the foundation by KV Swine in Santa Cruz.

So far, she said, she has spoken to all the 4-H Clubs in San Benito County, as well as FFA Clubs, and the Rotary Club about the Heritage Foundation, how she was raising the hog, and how people can help.

Affable and outgoing, Shannon said she knew going into the competition what she was getting in to.  

“Prior Heritage Hog recipients have helped me and I was given a master binder in which everyone who wins puts in what they did throughout the process,” she said. “I can see everybody’s speeches and things they’ve done. And everybody with the Heritage Foundation is so awesome. If I need help or have a question they’re right there to for me.”

She admitted it will be sad to see Hank go to the auction.

“It’s funny because I have him and then I have my own personal pig that I’m selling and she’s so stubborn and such a brat,” she said. “Hank is so sweet. I can sit on the ground and play with him. It’s going to be heartbreaking.”

Shannon said the scholarship will help, as she plans to attend Cornell University to study veterinary science. 

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]