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High school student is committed to farming

July 25, 1999

Jonas ZeiglerBy GREG SIMMONS / Staff Writer

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer




Three pigs, four goats and more than 70 chickens.

Welcome to the back yard of one local high school student who will enter the Ag Expo later this month as a first-year 4-H member.

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Jonas Zeigler, 17, is committed to farming. He lives with his parents, Michael and Teresa, in a house just off Virginia Avenue near City Park. His chicken coops and animal pens cover the back yard.

He said his father, Michael, started him farming and it eventually grew on him. Jonas, who has a year left at Williamsport High School, has shown animals at the Ag Expo before in the open class, which is for non 4-H members, and at other fairs up and down the East Coast, he said.

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Last year, he joined Washington County 4-H to become even more involved in the agriculture community.

"Everybody else wants to be a professional baseball player," Jonas said. "I want to be a farmer."

During the summer, Jonas usually starts his day around 6 a.m. baling hay on local farms. Then he comes home around 11 a.m. to tend to his animals. At 6 p.m. he heads to Kmart on Wesel Boulevard where he works in the stock department. "It's not what I want to do, but it's the only thing that pays the car insurance," he said.

For the Ag Expo, which begins July 31 at the Washington County Agricultural Center, Jonas said he plans on entering his three pigs and 10 of his chickens for competition. He's not showing the goats.

Jonas will sell the pigs at the expo, and they'll be butchered within a week. Five of the birds will live to see another expo, or at least another day, because they are put in the competition only to look good - not to eat, Jonas said.

The show birds, Old English chickens, as well as his common Leghorn chickens, require hours of attention to diet and temperature. Jonas said judges will count the number of tail feathers on a chicken and they will dock points off the score if its neck and body feathers don't match in color.

For competition judging, the Leghorns' skin color should be yellowish, not pink. If the chickens eat a steady diet with the proper amount of corn, their skin will color appropriately. But too much corn will turn the entire chicken yellow, including its feathers, Jonas said.

Bacon, Loin and Runt - the three pigs, which are about 6 months old - are putting away about 90 pounds of feed a day, about $6 worth. Jonas said he expects to get about $1.25 per pound for each pig at the Ag Expo sale. With pigs that weigh as much as 280 pounds, he could receive $1,000.

Jonas said it's still preferable to sell livestock at the Ag Expo, where organizers set a minimum price for livestock.

One reason is that the animals are inspected by the expo judges. Also, the animal owners who compete must maintain meticulous health and nutrition records for the year, letting the buyer know he or she is purchasing a healthy animal.

Jonas said he also sees the personal benefits of participating in the Ag Expo and the 4-H. Many of the animals sold at the expo go to feed the homeless. And the experience passed on at the show far surpasses any monetary value.

"I'm (at the Ag Expo) for the fun and the knowledge," he said.

But going to the Expo as a spectator is boring, he said, adding that to enjoy it, one must compete.

"Oh, man, it's a rush for me," he said. "You've worked so hard to be there."

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