Successful Farming - - CONTENTS - By Cheyenne Dunn

Show­ing live­stock is a fam­ily af­fair for the Becks of Aller­ton, Illi­nois. Ev­ery­one is in­volved and has a role in rais­ing and car­ing for the an­i­mals – even 3-yearold Elsie. While the Becks have been show­ing live­stock for 10 years, they re­cently launched a new project: rais­ing, sell­ing, and show­ing Berk­shire pigs.

“We started show­ing swine be­cause our two old­est daugh­ters came to us and asked if they could get in­volved in show­ing hogs through 4-H,” re­calls mom Tracey. “My hus­band, Tony, and I prayed about it and de­cided we wanted to give them some­thing else to call their own on the farm.”

With the pur­chase of a Berk­shire gilt named Lucy, Beck Sis­ters Berks was born. Af­ter her first ap­pear­ance in the show ring, it was clear Lucy was some­thing spe­cial.

“I showed her at our county fair, and she did re­ally well. A lot of peo­ple said they wanted to buy Lucy from me, so that con­firmed she would make a good sow,” says old­est daugh­ter Hallie. “We bred her and kept 12 piglets to show the next year.”

The gift

Yet, al­low­ing the girls to show hogs was so much more than hav­ing some­thing to call their own.

“There is a quote hang­ing in our live­stock trailer that says, ‘My fa­ther gave me the great­est gift any­one could give an­other per­son; he be­lieved in me,’ ” says Tracey. “When the girls came to us and asked about get­ting in­volved with the hogs, we be­lieved they could do it. Whether it’s a sport, FFA, or 4-H, it’s im­por­tant to let our chil­dren feel and hear that we be­lieve in them.”

By giv­ing each of their girls that gift, the cou­ple not only is help­ing Hallie, Han­nah, Faith, Laura, and Elsie reach their po­ten­tial, but also is nur­tur­ing their in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties.

Hallie, 18

Gen­tle and thought­ful, Hallie has been a mem­ber of 4-H for 10 years. At shows, she is con­sid­er­ate of oth­ers and will put their needs be­fore her own.

“Hallie is some­one who wants to be be­hind the scenes and be a ser­vant,” says Tony. “She does the things that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily no­ticed all of the time.”

Dur­ing far­row­ing, it is not un­usual for Hallie to stay late in the barn to make sure ev­ery­thing is in or­der and the piglets are nurs­ing as they should. Though rais­ing pigs has its chal­lenges and things don’t al­ways go ac­cord­ing to plan, she finds it a very re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I en­joy spend­ing time with my fam­ily in the barn,” she says. “Car­ing for our an­i­mals ev­ery day has taught me a lot about re­spon­si­bil­ity and ded­i­ca­tion.”

Those qual­i­ties will serve her well as she heads off to Dordt Col­lege to study an­i­mal sci­ence.

Han­nah, 16

Am­bi­tious and re­spon­si­ble, Han­nah, who has been in­volved in 4-H for eight years, is a self-starter. She helps or­ga­nize the work that needs to get done in the pig barn and fol­lows through to en­sure it is ac­com­plished.

“Han­nah is al­ways on top of mak­ing sure the pigs are trained and ready for com­pe­ti­tion,” says Tracey.

When it’s time to head to a show, there’s no need to worry about sup­plies and the ne­ces­si­ties be­cause Han­nah’s got it cov­ered.

“The thing I en­joy most about show­ing and rais­ing pigs is work­ing with my fam­ily,” says Han­nah. “It can be dif­fi­cult at times be­cause we all have our own way of do­ing things, but we have learned to work to­gether to es­tab­lish the same end goal.”

faith, 13

Fun-lov­ing Faith, who is a six-year mem­ber of 4-H, knows how to keep her fam­ily happy when times get tough.

“When things aren’t

go­ing the right way dur­ing the day, at a show, or even at home, Faith light­ens the mood by bring­ing hu­mor to the sit­u­a­tion,” says Tracey.

Faith’s fa­vorite part of rais­ing pigs is spend­ing time with them and see­ing how they act. Dur­ing far­row­ing, she can usu­ally be found sit­ting with the sows to en­sure ev­ery piglet is ac­counted for and nurs­ing well.

“Rais­ing pigs has taught me re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause I have to go to the barn ev­ery day to feed them, wash them, clean their pens, and work with them,” says Faith.


Ayoung lady who prefers to spend much of her time out doors, Laura is al­ways ea­ger to pitch in and as­sist her older sis­ters. From walk­ing pigs to clean­ing pens, you can count on her when an ex­tra pair of hands is needed.

“Laura has a sweet spirit and is very help­ful,” says Tracey. “She is al­ways ask­ing for chores and jobs to do, which helps the rest of us.”

When piglets are born, there is no doubt Laura will be close by to take care of them. It’s not un­usual to find her sleep­ing in the barn to watch over the new­borns. The best part, she says, is giv­ing the pigs fun names like Larry, who just hap­pens to be

the pig she is show­ing this year.


As the youngest Beck sis­ter, Elsie has no in­ten­tion of be­ing left out. Much like Laura, she wants to help wher­ever she can.

“Elsie is very de­ter­mined,” says Tony. “She is al­ways want­ing to tag along and asks where you are go­ing and what you are do­ing.”

When she’s not try­ing to keep up with her big sis­ters, you can find Elsie rid­ing her John Deere Gator, rid­ing in the trac­tor with her dad, or giv­ing big hugs to hu­mans and an­i­mals alike – three of her fa­vorite things to do.

Her com­pas­sion for the an­i­mals isn’t limited to hugs. “Elsie also likes to pray for the baby pigs and their moth­ers,” says Tracey.


While this project is af­ford­ing each of the girls the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop their in­di­vid­ual strengths, Tracey and Tony hope they come away from this ex­pe­ri­ence with a sense of kind­ness and re­spect for hu­mans and an­i­mals.

“Each time we go to a show, it is a char­ac­ter-build­ing op­por­tu­nity and a chance to ex­tend grace to one an­other,” says Tony. “At the end of the day, you learn how to work to­gether and help each other to be gra­cious peo­ple.”

left to right: Han­nah, Laura, Faith, Elsie, and Hallie Beck formed Beck Sis­ters Berks as part of a 4-H project.

As a whole, the Beck fam­ily’s fa­vorite part of show­ing pigs is see­ing the months of hard work and ded­i­ca­tion in the barn pay off in the ring.

The money Beck Sis­ters Berks earns from sell­ing the pigs goes to­ward show sup­plies, pur­chas­ing pigs for the up­com­ing sea­son, and each girl’s col­lege fund.

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