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Four generations of the Grass family show at state fair

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 09/11/2013 10:29 AM

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FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — It's been 13 years since Julie Grass last visited the Minnesota State Fair, but she certainly wasn't going to miss the 2013 open class spotted hog show.

Four generations of the Grass family were cheered on by the crowd, as they showed five gilts in the contest.

It was pretty cool to watch, said Julie, who helped prep the gilts.

Her father, Jim, of Owatonna, was joined in the show ring by her brother, Buz; Buz's daughter, Mandi Resler, and her son, Blake; and Buz's son, Jake. Jake's wife, Lindsay, also entered the ring to help the couple's daughter, Madeline, show her gilt. Jim's daughter, Cindy and her husband, Luvern Martin, joined the rest of the family.

Swine Superintendent Jerry Hawton noted the uniqueness of the event.

"You seldom come across three generations showing in the same ring," said Swine Superintendent Jerry Hawton. "But when you have four generations, it's unbelievable."

The idea for four generations show together started when Jim purchased five gilts last spring from Steve Resler. Family members made plans to be at the event.

"And everything held together so we could have a successful day," Julie said.

Jim's interest in swine started in 1945 when he purchased two bred Spotted sows. He planned to use the offspring for his 4-H and FFA projects, but things didn't go according to plan.

One sow had two piglets and the other gave birth to three, he said. It didn't dampen his enthusiasm and the sows were more productive with their second litter. One had 14 piglets, and the other had 16.

He entered his first hogs in open class competition in 1947. When one of the boars he intended to show broke a hip, the local veterinarian suggested he get rid of the animal, but Jim nursed it back to health. The boar healed and was named grand champion at the fair.

"I had all kinds of time, so I took good care of him," Jim said.

His family lived on a 10-acre site, but, as Jim's herd grew, more space was needed for the livestock. They moved to a 173-acre farm that Jim continues to call home. He built new and renovated buildings to house his 30-sow farrow-to-finish operation, his sheep flock and 15 to 20 milk cows. The dairy was replaced with 20 cow/calf beef pairs. He sold the livestock three years ago after suffering a heart attack.

He has continued to buy stock each year for the State Fair's open class show, selling them back at the end of summer. This year the five gilts he purchased were housed at his grandson Jake's farm.

Jim met his wife, Erliss, at the state fair. Jim showed hogs while Erliss had dairy cows.

Erliss died almost two years ago, but Jim recalls how she helped get hogs ready for shows and her work on the farm.

He's not sure if he'll purchase gilts for the 2014 open class show, but he planned to continue volunteering with the 4-H program.

"I have been involved with it since I graduated from high school," he said. "It's so important. It's an organization where the youth and parents work together. It's family oriented and a super organization."

Jim continues to serve on the 4-H Auction committee, a committee he helped start 34 years ago.