By Maggie Edwards
March 2023 kick-started a world of opportunity for Alabama youth swine exhibitors when the Alabama Jr. Swine Board (AJSB) was founded.
“I served on the Alabama Junior Cattlemen’s Association board when I was young and saw benefits from it and the relationships it created,” said AJSB Coordinator Sammie Lee Stone. “I wanted to help bring those same opportunities to the swine industry.”
Stone is passionate about building morale in the show barn, and the need hits close to home. Her children raise and exhibit swine across the U.S.
“I wanted to put a group of kids together who could start a fellowship in the barn where people look forward to coming,” said Stone, who serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Pork Committee. “This is a platform for us to reach out to younger kids and help them stay involved with the industry.”
The inaugural AJSB is comprised of Philip Belcher, Lee County; Liz MacAloney, Dale County; and Madelyne Tallent, Calhoun County.
These high school students have almost 20 years combined experience showing livestock, Stone said.
Take Belcher. He shows and judges livestock through Alabama 4-H.
“I am excited about the things our board will create for current and future showmen,” Belcher said. “This will help establish lifelong friendships with people who share the same interests.”
“I’m ready to share my past experiences with other showmen,” she said. “The board is a great opportunity to mentor younger exhibitors.”
MacAloney said serving on the AJSB offers a chance to expand the swine industry in Alabama. Formerly a prime pork-producing state, Alabama is primarily home to small, family operations that raise farm-to-fork pork.
“I want to help others find their love for this industry just like I did,” said MacAloney, who is building a show-pig breeding business.
To help fuel their work, members crafted a mission statement during communication training at the Federation home office this summer.
AJSB’s mission is “to make a positive difference and build strong leaders for youth, the swine industry and our communities through outreach, education, promotion and fellowship.”
In August, Belcher, MacAloney and Tallent put that mission in action through a community service project.
“My son, Tucker Ross, donated a hog to the board,” said Stone. “We then sold half of this hog to the Federation Pork Division.”
A real estate group purchased the other half. AJSB then donated the meat to Jessie’s Place — a women and children’s center in Birmingham.
MacAloney called their visit “unforgettable.”
“The opportunity to donate to Jessie’s Place made us feel honored to help feed others in need,” she said.
Tallent also donated a hog to the AJSB. Half was raffled to raise money for scholarships, awards and shows, while the board donated the other half to a shelter in Anniston.
Federation Pork Division Director Colton Christjohn praised AJSB members on their drive and dedication to serving the community and supporting the swine industry.
“These students are our future,” said Christjohn, who grew up exhibiting swine. “I am thankful we have this board in place to lead the charge for the swine showing industry. This board will have a tremendous impact on the lives of youth livestock exhibitors.”
Stone hailed the trio of young leaders.
“They are fun-loving, Christian kids,” she said. “My hope is this mentoring will push them to stay involved and help younger generations in return.”