If 16-year-old Will Aycock has his way, the folks of Albertville will soon eat high on the north Alabama-raised hog.
Aycock is the sole Alabamian to receive a $1,000 National FFA grant this year, which he plans on using to bulk up the quality of his sounder of swine. He’ll harvest, process and sell the hogs as sausage at the Albertville Farmers Market this summer.
“I want people to know they can come and see the whole process of raising hogs,” said Aycock, a third-year grant recipient who lives in DeKalb County’s Whiton community. “It takes lots of time, money and feed to raise a hog. I want consumers to see and ask questions about farming.”
Selling farm-raised sausage to consumers is one aspect of Aycock’s Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), the real-world component of agriscience education. FFA and classroom experience are the other elements.
Aycock’s father, Gary, is among four agriscience teachers at Albertville High School (AHS), where the younger Aycock is a sophomore. The 22-year veteran teacher and FFA adviser said his son’s SAE has evolved.
“He’s developed an SAE into a product for the public,” Gary said, noting 152 grants were allocated nationwide this year. “He’s gone from a breeder to a producer of consumer goods.”
Aycock began his SAE in eighth grade, but the project’s foundation was laid earlier.
Showing lambs launched his foray into agriculture at just 4 years old. He traded in his lamb-bracing stance for a show pig stick two years later and began showing, raising and breeding pigs.
“My SAE isn’t just a project,” said Aycock, the Alabama FFA North District reporter and AHS FFA chapter president. “It’s a lifestyle. I’m using my FFA skills to plug in experiences at home.”
When he’s not caring for animals, Aycock plays guitar or jump-starts his college studies through dual enrollment. He also volunteers at a veterinary clinic, a career path he said he hopes to pursue.
Aycock also shows pigs and has won scholarship money through the Alabama Pork Producers at the Alabama National Fair livestock shows.
These days, the Aycock pig barn and pen is home to six show pigs, eight sows and one boar. Purchasing a registered Yorkshire breeding gilt is on Aycock’s checklist, a transaction that’ll eat up most of the grant, which was sponsored by lender Rabo AgriFinance.
Product from the new gilt’s progeny will be sold next year, but until then, Aycock’s other stock is ready to supply bulk and link sausage thanks to processing at a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified facility in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.
Aycock said his SAE goal is threefold — breed and raise quality hogs; deal fairly and honestly with consumers; and make a difference in his community.
Alabama FFA Executive Secretary Andy Chamness said he’s enjoyed seeing Aycock’s SAE transform.
“Will is a fantastic example of the work ethic and passion that every FFA member should possess,” Chamness said. “He deeply cares about agriculture and FFA and always reaches out to help others.”
A couple decades ago, DeKalb County was the largest hog-producing county in Alabama, Gary said. Changing growing practices shifted production to states like Iowa and North Carolina, though Alabama farms market about 327,000 pigs annually.
Aycock’s smaller-scale approach is rooted in his county’s agricultural history as his pig barn was part of a larger farm in years past.
His FFA experience is steeped in history, too. After all, his dad and mom Wendy introduced him to FFA at State Convention when he was 3.
“I remember seeing the older kids in their blue jackets,” Aycock said. “Now I’m one of those kids.”
To learn more or buy product, contact Aycock at (256) 677-8095.