Secrets of a Six-time Iowa State Fair Showmanship Champion
“My dad always told me that you can always buy a pig, but you can’t buy a showman,” said Kale Boysen, a six-time Iowa State Fair Showmanship Champion and five-time National showmanship award winner. “I took my dad’s advice, and since I was 12 I’ve been focusing on the things that I know I can impact through a lot of practice and hard work. I spend a lot of time working with the animals, practicing and preparing for each show.”
Kale, a senior at Iowa State University in ag studies, just finished off his final year of showing swine with his Wapello FFA, an opportunity the FFA has to allow college students to continue to be engaged in collegiate FFA projects and the FFA National Convention after high school graduation.
Knowing this year was his last year as an FFA exhibitor, Kale had extra high expectations as he headed into this year’s Iowa State Fair. Kale traveling all summer with “Stu,” participating in the Iowa Jackpot Swine Series to gain valuable practice in the show ring.
Kale had purchased Stu in March, bringing him home at a mere 50 pounds. “They gain about two pounds a day,” laughed Kale. “He didn’t stay little for long.”
“We worked all summer to tame him down, and get him used to me walking along side of him,” said Kale. “We walked Stu every day, built up his endurance and made sure he had the right nutrition program in place for structure and muscle shape.” Kale said there are also tips and tricks to sprucing up a pig’s appearance, such as using lotion to improve the look of their skin, and even a little time in the sun to make the black part, blacker.
“It’s the work that is done at home that helps you achieve success in the show ring,” said Kale. “I firmly believe that you don’t have to have the most expensive pig to win. Showmanship is such a big part of the competition, and anyone can win if they work hard and practice every day.”
Last week all of Kale and Stu’s hard work and effort paid off. Kale not only took home top honors for showmanship and won Champion Purebred Barrow at the Iowa State Fair, but he earned one of the highest honors any youth exhibitor can get—Grand Champion FFA Market Hog. This also meant a spot in the Iowa Foundation For Agricultural Advancement Sale of Champions, where philanthropic buyers purchase the animals, allowing the bulk of the sale price to be given back to the exhibitor to be towards college expenses.
With his family looking on, Kale showed Stu around the ring one last time. Midway through the auction, the spectators in the standing room-only arena leapt to their feet as the auctioneer announced the duo had just broken an all-time, all-species record at the Iowa State Fair. Buyers Iowa Select Farms and Lynch Livestock/Premium Iowa Pork teamed up with nearly $19,000 in local donations to purchase Stu for a final sale price of $54,000.
“It was amazing,” said Kale. “We had worked all summer for this, in fact I have been working towards this moment since I was 12 years old.”
Kale had taken an interest in swine when he was very young, helping his dad, Duane, take care of their commercial hogs before and after school. “I also helped my dad move pigs around in the sale barn, and after that it just took off,” said Kale.
Kale showed his first pig as a member of the Wapello FFA Chapter at the Louisa County Fair when he was twelve. It was a “Pen of Three,” where he teamed up with an older FFA student who could help teach him the ropes. “I have always been grateful to those who helped me get better,” said Kale. “Show pig projects are challenging, no matter how old you are. I’ve taken sixth out of seventh in class before, those are the experiences I’ve learned from the most. You have to stay positive and keep moving forward.”
After his first experience exhibiting swine he was hooked, showing at the county fair, state fair and hundreds of jackpot shows, always with his two younger brothers, Koby and Kabe, and his parents, Duane and Jodi.
“These shows are our family vacations,” said Kale. “My brothers both show, and we enjoy spending time together and helping each other out. It’s the family time and the friends we make along the way that makes the show life completely worth all of the time and effort.”
It’s the help from his family, friends and those early mentors that have propelled Kale to also give back. When he’s not taking classes at Iowa State University or working on his own projects, he’s coaching younger kids to help them build confidence and get their swine projects off the ground, especially back in his home county.
“I spend a lot of time on the phone, even Facetiming kids who have questions or just need a way to get into showing pigs,” said Kale. “It is rewarding to see them place higher and higher each time, and it’s something I’ll continue to do.”