A Martinsburg family heavily active in showing hogs, FFA and 4-H events were honored recently as the Audrain County Farm Family. They attended the Farm Family Day last month during the Missouri State Fair.

Aaron and Mandy Cope operate a small hog farm in Martinsburg along with Mid-Missouri Truck and Trailer in Mexico.

"We play a very big part in the 4-H world, within Audrain County," Mandy Cope said.

Mandy Cope said the recognition was a surprise when they learned of the honor in July. Aaron is involved with the 4-H Extension Council, their children are members of the Merry Martins 4-H Club and Mandy is on the Audrain County Fair Board. Their two older children are in college but were very active in FFA. One was selected to the Northeast FFA Expo as a youth board member. Aaron and Mandy also are Community R-6 FFA alumni.

While their hog operation is small, the Copes spend a lot of time on the road showing their hogs.

"We have about 25 head of sow on the farm. There's at any given time 75 to 100 pigs depending on farrowing season," she said.

The Copes already happened to be participating in swine showings at the fair on the day of the special meal for the 115 farm families — one from each Missouri county and one from St. Louis city. They received free entry to the fair Aug. 12, along with $50 spending money from Missouri Farm Bureau. The family enjoyed a tram ride from the Farm Bureau building to the Governor's Tent, where the Budweiser Clydesdales were in attendance.

"Several speeches were given about the farm families and the different stuff that was going on in the agriculture world," Mandy Cope said.

The Copes are part of the National Junior Swine Association and Certified Pedigree Swine Association. They have four children, Brant, Pacey, Coltin and Tayler, who are members of Missouri Youth Show Pig Circuit. They travel to different states depending on where the various swine shows take place.

"From the end of April until about Father's Day, we're showing every weekend on the Missouri circuit," Mandy Cope said.

The show breeds like Yorkshire, Berkshire, Duroc, Spot and other crossbreeds, which is different from large-scale operations that typically raise crossbred pigs that mature in less time.

"Ours are more of a show pig where we're getting the definition of the muscle and making sure they can still move and walk. Making sure their joints aren't stiff on show day," Mandy Cope said.

The Farm Family Day at the Missouri State Fair is sponsored by Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri State Fair Commissioners, University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and MU Extension and Engagement. Nearly 500 people were honored out of the 115 families.

"The Missouri State Fair is most certainly the most appropriate place to celebrate these families," Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe stated in a news release.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com