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Hooked On Hogs Escalon Teen Preps For Fair Appearance
All it took was one trip to the San Joaquin County Fair for Megan Cowan, a 15-year-old who just completed her sophomore year at Escalon High School, to realize she did not want to miss out on the fun of being in FFA and raising a market animal.

She joined the FFA program her freshman year, after having seen older friends in the program having fun, Cowan said.

When selecting which animal to show, she said "heifers and steers are too big, sheep are annoying and pigs are just cute."

Not coming from an agriculture family, Cowan utilizes the Escalon FFA school farm to house her hog.

"Having a school farm helped me out a lot, because I live in the city," Cowan said.

The school farm gives kids that don't have country homes an opportunity to house Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects, said Stacy Ingalls, Escalon FFA advisor.

"It's a lot of work," Cowan said of the efforts necessary to raise an animal.

However, after raising her first pig last year and exhibiting at the county fair, she said the project was a "big money maker" and allowed her to have fun and meet new people.

Cowan is currently raising her second market hog, Chapstick, a 290-pound

Duroc that she will exhibit at the 150th San Joaquin County Fair. The fair runs from Wednesday, June 16 through Sunday, June 20, but exhibitors actually begin their competition prior to the fair opening, starting on June 12. Cowan's responsibilities include feeding the pig twice a day, cleaning its pen, practicing showmanship and bathing it.

"I love it," she added of her pig.

Going to the fair and socializing with friends while preparing to show is one of the highlights of raising a hog, but cleaning up after it is not so fun, Cowan admitted.

"Students learn the responsibility of something depending on you on a daily basis and that follow through and commitment pay off in the end," advisor Ingalls said.

While the school farm has provided Cowan with the opportunity to raise an animal, it also requires teamwork to keep the farm, which is located next to the school bus garage, clean because it is in a residential area, Cowan said.

The farm has the capacity to hold up to 15 hogs, 12 sheep, nine goats, and numerous rabbits.

"In 2006, student, parent and community support spurred an endeavor that brought needed renovations and modernization to the farm," Ingalls explained.

Since then, approximately $20,000 in student and community labor has been donated to the farm.

Cowan is one of over 100 exhibitors representing Escalon FFA at the fair this year, Ingalls noted.

Despite some hardships with this year's project, Cowan said she plans on raising a hog throughout the rest of her high school career.

"It has taught me that you can't neglect living things and how to manage money because it is a big expense," Cowan said.