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Perry FFA bounces back from fire

Perry FFA bounces back from barn fire

Perry Future Farmers of America students have bounced back from a barn fire that wiped out their show pigs and are getting ready for their first big show of the season.
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Perry Future Farmers of America students have bounced back from a barn fire that wiped out their show pigs and are getting ready for their first big show of the season.

The swine show season is about to get started and if there is a category for resiliency, the Perry Future Farmers of America students ought to clean up.

With a lot of help from others, the students have bounced back from a barn fire Nov. 18 that wiped out their show pigs. Breeders from around the country donated hogs to replace those that were killed.

A few have already competed in one preliminary show Dec. 17 and did well, with most of the pigs getting a top five finish in categories that included about 20 pigs each, said FFA instructor Kyle Dekle. On Jan. 12-14 they will be competing in their first big show of the season at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter, in which about 1,300 hogs will be competing.

Dekle said the students have handled the aftermath of the fire well. They lost 55 pigs in the fire but now have 70 that were donated. The new hogs are being housed at the agricenter until the barn can be rebuilt.

"Kids bounce back a lot quicker than adults do,:" Dekle said, as he stood among the rows of hog pens Wednesday. "They took it really hard when we lost the first group of pigs, but the outpouring of support was so immediate that within just a few days, a few hours for some of them, we already had pigs secured."

Dekle said 49 middle and high school students are involved in the Perry FFA pig showing, and not a single one dropped out after the fire.

One of those is Trey Garbett, junior at Perry High School. He said some students almost certainly would have had to quit had it not been for the donated pigs. The students buy the animals themselves and some likely wouldn't have been able to do it again, he said.

"We dealt with it like every hard thing you go through in life," Garbett said after he checked on his two hogs Wednesday. "You just gotta get through it and hope there is a good thing that comes out in the end, and there is because we've got 70 pigs and we used to have 55 at the old barn."

The fire was suspected to have been caused by a heat lamp the pigs knocked over. Construction companies have agreed to donate services to rebuild the barn, and donors have offered money to buy the material, Dekle said, but he wasn't sure when construction might start. He said the design of the new building is still being worked out.

Dekle said they had a lottery drawing for the students to divide up the donated pigs, but he said all of the pigs were good quality and no one was complaining about how the drawing turned out.

"They were just thrilled with having a pig," he said. "They were just happy to be showing because they enjoy it and they love it."

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