Earning a blue ribbon outside the show ring
When Logan Ballance stepped into the show ring for the first time, she was participating in the beginner pig show. Little did she know that experience would lead her and younger sister, Riley, to the national stage and to becoming businesswomen.
Now 15, Logan and Riley have shown all over the state of North Carolina and at national shows. Six years ago, Logan was showing a borrowed pig and receiving a participation ribbon in the noncompetitive class at her local 4-H show. Then she bought two pigs and went to the North Carolina State Fair.
“It was just us learning what to do,” she says of her family. “We had regular pigs, not show pigs. My dad had a trailer at the store. He put panels on it and made a makeshift pig trailer.”
Logan placed last in every class she competed in during that fair, but it ignited an interest in showing pigs. Each year they bought more pigs and added more shows to their schedule. Eventually, she gave up baseball and dance to focus solely on raising livestock. Riley, five years younger, followed her older sister into the show ring, choosing it over T-ball and dance classes.
Those first two pigs had pens with dirt floors, no shavings, and all the feed they could eat. Then they built a small pig area with concrete floors and individual pens. After a few years they outgrew that area, so the family built a new show barn with individual pens, weigh station, and wash area. Each animal is weighed weekly and their diet adjusted as needed. Eleven months out of the year, pigs call that barn home. There are now 18 inside and it’s not uncommon to see Logan, Riley, and their parents, Justin and Melissa, walking pigs around the yard training for the ring.
Their commitment and hard work have paid off, with both Logan and Riley bringing home numerous blue ribbons. The awards aren’t the only benefit of showing pigs. “I like learning new things every time I come out here,” said Riley as she prepared to work with one of her pigs. “I like getting to know the pigs and meeting new people at the shows.”
When COVID struck, the shows went on, but packers no longer purchased the animals after the show. This meant the pigs they showed came home with them. “We had to do something with the meat,” said Logan, so they started selling whole and half pigs. Eventually they got a meat handler’s license and L&R Blue Ribbon Pork was born. They now sell individual cuts mostly through word of mouth and from interest on the business’s Facebook page.
Adding the meat side of the business has sharpened their skills in selecting pigs. Logan competes on their county’s 4-H Livestock Judging Team, where they learn what traits to look for in high-quality market pigs. In addition, “I listen to the judges’ comments at the shows and use that knowledge when picking pigs,” said Logan, who takes an active role in choosing the pigs they buy for the show ring.
While her first experience competing could have caused her to quit, Logan kept going. She and Riley are now raising pigs with their family and have become mentors to other kids just starting to show. They expanded and are building a farm-to-fork business one pig at a time.