ST. PAUL — The Minnesota State Fair is full of people, food and experiences. The annual event is a time for folks from all over to celebrate the end of summer. For one Renville County family, this year’s State Fair gave them a bit more to celebrate — a first-place finish in the big pig competition.
Michael Morris and his children Mason and Sydney entered one of their boars in the swine weight competition. Weighing in at around 1,100 pounds, the boar is the heaviest at the 2023 fair — and around double the weight of an average pig, which is between 300 and 600 pounds.
“On our small hobby farm, we farrow a group of pigs every year, have them breed one of the pigs. One got big, so we kept feeding them for three years until they got really big,” Morris said.
The pig was raised on a diet of sweetcorn, soybean meal, garden veggies and yogurt or cottage cheese as an occasional treat. When the State Fair came around, Morris submitted the weight and brought the pig to the Twin Cities to compete.
Just bringing the pig to the fair was a challenge, as the heat at the time made the pig’s trailer dangerously hot. So the Morris family cooled it down with a mix of ice and sawdust.
“There were three entries in the contest this year. The number of entries can vary, but it’s not many; there are usually at least one or two,” said Jill Nathe, deputy general manager of the State Fair. “Not many people have big boars on their farms. It’s kind of a niche competition.”
The competition itself is one of many hosted by the State Fair. The biggest pig competition is based purely on weight. Most of the pigs submitted are more than 1,000 pounds. In 2017, the winner was over 1,400 pounds.
“Our department handles about 30,000 entries in all kinds of competitions in livestock, horses, agriculture, arts and crafts — from swine and chickens, horses and llamas, plus fine art, vegetables, quilts, student art, FFA ag technology — just to name a few,” Nathe said.
Michael Morris grew up on a farm. His parents were lifelong farmers. When he grew up, he decided not to continue farming, but when his parents died, he took over the land and has kept it as a hobby farm for the past eight years.
“It is just a hobby farm. We breed one sow a year so kids can learn to raise pigs and how to butcher for neighbors. A lot of people really like homegrown pork,” Morris said. “In all the time we have had it, this was the largest boar we have shot for.”
While this was the largest pig they have had, it is not the first time the family has entered a pig into the swine competition.
“We submitted, but we lost by around 50 or 60 pounds. That was three or four years ago; that was a 1,200-pound hog,” Morris said. “It has been a fun experience for the kids. Once in a lifetime. They will never forget.”
The pig will remain on display at the fair through Monday, Sept. 4, but the memory of the win will stay with the Morris family for many years to come.