Al Snedegar has spent his life in the purebred swine industry, from raising swine to judging fairs, there aren’t many hats he hasn’t worn through his more than half a century in the swine industry. Perhaps, his greatest contribution is the countless young industry leaders that he has helped shape over the years through his role as an educator and a mentor. We caught up with Al to learn what he felt was his greatest lesson.
As he thought back to his beloved bride Beth “following him home” from the Indiana State Fair and the first county fair he was asked to sort in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, he recalled the many drastic changes this industry has seen over the years. With those in mind, he had a couple lessons he wanted to pass on to those just getting their start in the industry.
“The first is that the only thing that will not change is the friendships you will encounter in your showing time frame,” he says. “Always remember that the pig is the ‘least important’ part of a pig show. What is popular will regularly change, and the looks of your pig and how you present it, will differ from the beginning to the end of your show years. The friends you make will last your lifetime!”
Snedegar teaches this lesson every chance he gets. One of the tokens of his long career of judging swine shows is asking all the exhibitors to stop and shake hands during showmanship. To Snedegar, this industry has always been about the people you meet along the way.
“Another lesson is to seek the advice of mentors. In my case, things passed to me by my father, Don Gray, and Hobe Jones have proven to help me through life, not just pig shows,” Snedegar says. “The most rewarding times I have today are when one of ‘my kids,’ which I consider any young person I came in touch with, says I told them something useful to them in life. Often it takes young people many years to appreciate advice, but the bell will eventually ring.”
Not only is it important to find a more experience person to look up to in the industry, but as Snedegar will tell you, that person should also be comfortable in shooting you straight before steering you in the right direction.
“From a judging perspective, you need a mentor that will give you a real analysis of your assignment and be critical of how you handled the show,” he says. “In my case Dick Nash, although not always happy, always had an assessment, which improved my handling of the next show. Fran Callahan and Jack Rodibaugh were two others that made me a better Judge.”
His final words of wisdom may be the most important.
“Remember to have fun, enjoy yourself and make new friends,” he says. “If winning is all you are after, you will spend lots of money, and get nothing in return.”