The passion for agriculture and livestock is nothing new to the Oakdale Joint Unified School District. While the addition of the Oakdale School Farm on the west end of town has been a welcome one, the ag world has been embraced (most especially) at the high school level for decades – some might even argue a century.
Steeped in tradition, generations of students have come through the OHS Ag Program just as their parents once did. Such would be the case with OHS Class of 2017 alum Donna Hicks. Following in the footsteps of mom Stephanie, Donna found her niche within the FFA Program her freshman year and began showing pigs, just as mom did.
The younger Hicks took her passion on the road in late December and with the help of No Limit Genetics secured a First Place Honor for her class with her gilt at the Arizona National Livestock Show.
Known as a Jackpot Show, Hicks shared the experience is fairly new to her, as she never saw herself showing pigs beyond her high school term.
“I never did any of the jackpotting,” Hicks said. “I just started in high school and showed once a year at fair.
“I showed because my mom showed, when she was in high school and wanted me to do it,” she continued.
The younger Hicks, however, quickly caught the bug and found a passion for the pigs, just as her mom did. At the encouragement of mentor and No Limit Genetics owner, Adam Mendonza, Hicks attended her first Jackpot Show at the Cow Palace in October. It was an event which then sparked her interest in Arizona.
Mendonza offered to transport her pigs, along with several other of his clients and left the rest up to her. Cleo, a 310-pound cross bred gilt, would prove to be the prized pig for Hicks’ time and effort.
“When I got out of high school, I thought I was done,” Hicks said of her time showing pigs. “That was my hobby. FFA was all I did in high school.”
Awards notwithstanding, Hicks may be finished in the show ring.
“I think I’m done, but I’m not sure,” she stated honestly. “What I really enjoy about pigs is the feeding part of it. The feeding part is really interesting. I’ll get a certain feeding regimen. There’s just the plain feed, I feed them, then there’s all the supplements on top.”
Hicks credits Mendonza with all the knowledge she’s gained along the way to raising an award-winning pig, noting his expertise and wisdom as instrumental in proper nutrition for her pigs. And while she played with the idea of using the recent found passion to pursue a career as an Ag Teacher, her career aspirations lie elsewhere.
Now in her second year of study at Modesto Junior College, Hicks has her sights on the nursing program and pursuing a career as a nurse.
“It’s challenging,” she said of training and raising pigs and their unique personalities. “It’s interesting to see. You can train them at home and they’ll be one way and you take them to show and they’ll be totally different.”
Though she enjoys working with livestock, Hicks said she sees a human element factoring in to her life’s work.
“That’s where I’m torn,” she continued, “because I love pigs, but I really want to be a nurse. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. I just like to help people.”