Who said a pig couldn’t be man’s best friend?
That is certainly the case for 2022 DCHS graduate and outgoing FFA president Freddie Jenkins, who in just two years became both a caregiver and competitive shower of pigs.
Having placed at county, state and national events, he has rapidly become an important member of Dawson County’s agricultural community.
Before his junior year of high school, Jenkins had never so much as stepped in a pen or dealt with farm animals on a regular basis.
In fact, the self-described ‘preppy kid’ was an accomplished fisherman and had placed third at a state-level event as a freshman.
But everything — from his clothes to career path — changed when Jenkins met FFA advisor Keith Pankey.
“Keith really took his time and loved this kid and was devoted to helping him grow in the agricultural field,” Freddie’s mother Sandra Jenkins said. “The direction of [Freddie’s] life totally changed once he got involved [with FFA].”
The first encounter Freddie had with Pankey was a humorous sign of how different his future experiences would be.
When Pankey told the neatly-dressed Jenkins to hop in the pig pen at the barn behind DCHS, he quickly realized his pearly white tennis shoes were no match.
But by the next day, Jenkins came prepared. With his dad’s boots, a pair of jeans and a hat in tow, the rest was history.
While he would eventually become most accustomed with pigs, the first animal he learned how to properly look after was an affectionate cow named Spade.
Donated by Brett Fausett, Spade was the first animal the Jenkins needed to bathe, trim and build a relationship with in preparation for showing.
“Spade was an absolute teddy bear,” Jenkins said. “If I didn't show up to the barn one day, she would not eat her food and go sit in her corner. When I got there, she would stare at me, get up and run straight for the fence toward me.”
Soon after that, he began his career with pigs by working with Drew Holtzlcaw, owner of Holtzclaw Show Pigs.
While he would eventually earn accolades and awards at state-wide events, it was the process of raising the pigs that allowed all of that to happen.
Once Jenkins committed to being in the barn with the animals, he devoted himself to spending as much time as needed with them.
There were nights he would be at the barn overnight tending to their needs, having to sleep in his car before waking up for class the next morning. He was involved in every step of raising pigs, including birthing.
“Pigs have a lot of spirit, soul and personality,” Jenkins said. “I love watching an animal grow and seeing the competition, where you need to set the bar and how you need to feed it.”
After showing Spade in September of his junior year, Jenkins went to his first career pig show in December with his stout, multi-colored barrow, Tank.
At the Banks County event, Tank placed as third overall barrow and first in junior showmanship. Later that season, Jenkins and Tank would win first place at the Georgia National Junior Livestock Show in Perry.
If there was one type of event that showed the depth of Jenkins’ care for pigs, it would be the showmanship event.
Here, Jenkins and his pig would strut across the stage in unison, maintaining eye contact with the judge. Such a connection could only be created by all the hours Jenkins spent in the barn spending time with the pigs.
“Tank knew when he was going to be shown. He knew how to walk and be all pretty,” Jenkins said. “The bonds I had with Spade and Tank are unbreakable.”
His senior year, Jenkins would find success with a pig named Quaker, a duroc with an auburn-colored coat.
At a National Junior Swine Association event that hosted over 6,000 pigs, Quaker finished fifth in his class. In the Perry event, Quaker finished second in class.
Through all of these learning experiences, Jenkins completed four career pathways, a general business CTAE class and put in 600 hours of work-based learning time through his FFA duties.
He also won the CTAE Director’s Award and earned an FFA State Degree after building up community service hours and participating in career development events. He placed third in the state of Georgia for Swine Production Proficiency.
Now, Jenkins is headed to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, where he intends to study to become a wildlife biologist.
Considered one of the most challenging programs at ABAC, the wildlife biology degree brings forth some of the state’s top wildlife and forestry specialists, many of whom land jobs with the state government.
But before that, Jenkins will be headed to Louisville, Ky. in early July for another national show, bringing a pig that he purchased on his own.