Recession or not, buyers at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Jackson County Fair are paying record prices for swine, seeking to support youths in 4-H and FFA, with many handing the meat over to ACCESS and other agencies that help the poor.

Recession or not, buyers at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Jackson County Fair are paying record prices for swine, seeking to support youths in 4-H and FFA, with many handing the meat over to ACCESS and other agencies that help the poor.

Bidders at Wednesday's swine auction spent $274,000, up significantly from $223,000 last year and $208,000 the year before, says Fair Board president Mel Morris. The record is $320,000.

"It's amazing to me how this community supports these youth and generates this kind of money," says Morris, noting that Grand Champion winner Wyatt Self of Sam's Valley got $40 a pound for his swine — and no one got less than $5 a pound for a single pig. The average was a record-breaking $6.05 a pound. (Correction: This story has been updated to clarify a difference in prices for pigs sold in single and double lots. Pigs sold in double lots during this year's Junior Livestock Auctions at the Jackson County Fair went for as low as $2.25 a pound.)

Money from the auctions goes mainly into young people's college fund, as well as being invested in next year's feed and animals, who must be cared for, cleaned and fed several times daily.

"Members are making more money and learning valuable life lessons," Morris said, "such as taking responsibility for their actions, making money-management decisions and raising and showing their animals."

Grand Champion winner for market steers is Ashley Cox, an Eagle Point High School sophomore, who said the honor is "pretty cool and exciting" and will enable her to invest in college, fix a fender bender she caused on her dad's pickup and save for next year's steer.

The auction of 95 market steers was Saturday night.

Volume buyers at the hog auction included Sherm's Thunderbird Market, Food 4 Less, Les Schwab Tires and All Creatures Great & Small, an animal clinic in Eagle Point, says Morris.

Thirty swine went to charity, he notes, including 17 to ACCESS, four to the Salvation Army and three each to Medford Gospel Mission and St Vincent de Paul.

"It's an exciting event when you get all this youth involved and people support the kids," says Ron Anderson, auctioneer and chairman of the Junior Livestock Auctioning Committee. "The community really gets behind this event and supports these kids and the hard work they put in."

The quality of the meat is "absolutely" the best, Anderson says, adding, "These animals are pampered."

As to why the animals are fetching such high hammer prices in a recession, John Dimick, board member of the Junior Livestock Auction, says, "I have no clue. They're great kids — and people here believe in kids and come to support them and help them pay for college and other important things."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.