Showing livestock goes beyond the individual – The Sharp family raises swine for North Carolina State Fair competitions

When you grow up doing something, it becomes a part of your character. You learn and grow from the things that you love. The Sharp family has been showing swine for over 30 years. In fact, the families uncle Alan and grandfather, Thad Sharp Jr., were both inducted into the North Carolina Livestock Hall of Fame.

Now, the whole family including parents Donna and Thad and children T and McLane, commit a great amount of their time to showing swine at both county and state level livestock shows.

Being raised surrounded by agriculture and the showing community has shaped the brothers into who they are today. Although T has aged out of youth livestock competitions at the Fair, he is sticking to his roots in college where he attends NC State University and majors in crop and soil science.

“Growing up showing swine has influenced me in a large way,” T said. “Showing at the Fair has taught me general life skills and patience. Its affected me enough to where I want to do it for the rest of my life.”

These life lessons are not limited to just T’s experiences. Everyone in the family has learned something from their time showing livestock. At just 14 years old, McLane has already learned the value of patience through something as simple as not being able to get a pig back in its pin.

“I’ve learned that you have to be patient because the pigs don’t understand what you’re saying,” McLane said. “If you want them to do something specific, you have to be patient until you get what you’re going for.”

Even though Donna isn’t a shower herself, she appreciates all that her boys have gained from their experience over the years. “It has taught our family a lot about time management, you’ve got your animals that you have to take care of constantly. The boys also have school and extra curriculars, so we all work together,” she said.

Raising pigs and getting them ready for competitions is not an easy feat. It requires taking time out of every day to work towards a goal. From feeding, to washing and walking, every member of the family makes sacrifices.

In a house with two boys, it is no doubt that competition happens. Now that T has aged out, the brothers can reflect on their competitiveness, McLane saying “it’s a mix of both competition and helping each other out. My parents say its team Sharp, but sometimes I really just want to beat my brother.”

Though beating your sibling might be something that drives you to succeed, there are moments where it doesn’t necessarily matter. Even when you don’t come out victorious, teamwork seems to pay off in the end.

“We all have different styles in how we train our pig, but we all work together,” T said. “At our county show my last year showing, McLane beat me. The next thing you know, he runs up and jumps in my arms and were both tearing up. We didn’t care who won, we were just happy we did it together.”

Moments like these are what makes all the long hours training your pig worth it. T looks back fondly of his time showing swine saying that one of his favorite memories happened during his last year of eligibility, right after Covid.

“My county show got cancelled so I was discouraged, but it felt good to come back,” T said. “With having so much free time I had trained these hogs a lot. One night I was trying to get my pig to stretch her legs and I walked her all the way through the parking lot. It was funny because when we first started, it was hard to walk them and then I was just walking through the parking lot, I worked hard and saw growth.”

With all the good memories that the family has from showing livestock, they are excited for the 2023 N.C. State Fair. This year, McLane is looking forward to seeing how his pigs turn out because they are the relatives of one of his favorite pigs.

“Two years ago, I had a pig and I really liked her because she was calm and could walk a long time, she even won best county pig,” McLane said. “We brought her home and artificially inseminated her, then she had baby pigs Easter day this year. It’s been six months, now they’ve grown up and I’ve picked two of the ones I like so I just have to walk them and get them ready to show.”

Right now, preparation for the family revolves around exercising and stretching the pigs as well as getting their ring movements down and working on getting their heads up. It is closer to Fair time that things switch up, McLane saying “we’re going to start feeding them more high protein stuff and supplements. We do specialized feeding based on what they need and if they need to change something.”

Being a family that shows swine is both fun and serious. The community is what stands out for Thad, saying that showing livestock is oddly a lot like sports since it takes a lot of commitment.

“Livestock showers have a great big community and even though everyone is competing against each other, we all work together,” Thad said. “They say that a rising tide raises all ships, and that’s how it is.”

Donna calls the family Team Sharp, and that is truly what they are when it comes to showing livestock at the N.C. State Fair – a team. From learning life lessons to appreciating the value of working together, the family appreciates their involvement in the livestock community.

The N.C. State Fair’s runs from Oct. 12-22, visit the official website to register for competitions today. The deadline for submitting entries is Sept. 15, but don’t hesitate to enter in your preferred competitions early.  This year, all contest entrants are required to submit W-9 forms along with their entry submissions.

About Karsyn Westerbeek

Hi everybody! I am Karsyn Westerbeek, but you can call me Wolf Tracks. I am a rising senior at North Carolina State University where I major in Communication with a minor in Business Administration. I am from Warsaw, North Carolina, and have always been a fan of the Wolfpack. I absolutely love the State Fair and its ability to bring our community together. That being said, I am so excited to be working as a public relations intern for the State Fair this summer!

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