The Mrsny family lives in the Parkland area, but don’t let their urban backdrop fool you; they have a country side.
Kyle Mrsny and his sister, Juliana, show swine at the state 4-H competition during the Washington State Fair in Puyallup — and they’re the only kids they know from school or around the neighborhood who do so.
Juliana, an 11-year-old student at Ford Middle School, is in her third year showing pigs. Next year, she plans to try her hand at showing a cow.
When 14-year-old Kyle isn’t playing baseball in the spring, he practices handling his livestock for the county and statewide shows. The Franklin Pierce High School student is in his fifth year of 4-H.
The Mrsnys live on roughly 5 acres surrounded by housing developments.
“It’s nothing like out in Graham,” said father Jason Mrsny. “It’s just our little area.”
Jason Mrsny said showing animals is a longtime family affair. He participated in FFA during high school and grew up supporting siblings who showed livestock for 4-H at what was then called the Puyallup Fair.
In fact, many of those who showed animals alongside him in high school were at this year’s fair supporting their own kids.
“It’s kind of a bond we have,” he said.
And just as 4-H isn’t limited to farm families and rural residents, Jason Mrsny said there is much more to it than showing livestock. Students can participate in culinary arts, home economics, public speaking and community activities such as food drives.
“4-H teaches responsibility,” Jason Mrsny said. “It’s all (the kids). They have to be able to do it all.”
Both Kyle and Juliana boast previous Grand Champion titles from past fairs. This year, Juliana is taking home three ribbons for her two pigs; her brother nabbed Reserve Champion, or second in his class, and is taking home five ribbons for his three pigs.
Kyle said preparing for competitions is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.
“It’s kind of hands on,” he said. “You have to practice a lot.”
Juliana’s favorite part about 4-H is sharing what she loves with all the friends she makes at the fair.
“You get to meet people from all over the state,” she said. “And if you really like (showing animals) you can do it for the rest of your life.”
All 4-H competitors at the Washington State Fair had to qualify at their local county competitions.
Kyle said his days at the fair consist of getting up early, tending to the pens, caring for the animals and answering guests’ questions. In the arena, he and his sister have to show judges their knowledge and skills handling the animals.
Jason Mrsny said every year the number of participants at the state 4-H fair grows, but fewer are from Pierce County due to the shrinking agriculture industry and increased development.
This year there were more than 40 competitors, Mrsny said.
“A lot of those are coming from out of the county because there isn’t a lot of farming going on,” he said.
Outside of 4-H, the Mrsnys do outdoor activities such as camping and fishing.
Jason Mrsny says he’s glad his kids have found something meaningful and productive that teaches them life lessons.
“If they’re not here doing this there’s more of a chance they’ll get in trouble or sit in front of a video game,” he said.