Cape High junior learns responsibility through raising pigs
Girl Scouts is not all cookie sales and camp songs, Cape High junior Riley Klopp notes on a website she created to help novice swineherds.
While scouting and pig-raising may seem incongruous, Riley combined her talents in two disparate interests to earn a prestigious award while helping to educate future agricultural students on how to raise and show pigs.
“I’ve been a Girl Scout my whole life,” Riley said. “I used to tag along to my sister’s events. As soon as I was old enough, I joined. Girl Scouts lets me give back to the community in a fun way.”
One way Scouts give back is by completing community service projects. Through projects, Scouts as young as fourth and fifth grades can be recognized by a series of awards that progresses from bronze to silver to gold.
As a Rehoboth Elementary fifth-grader, Riley created a free library kiosk at Epworth United Methodist Church, earning a Bronze Award.
While a Beacon Middle field hockey player, she received the Silver Award for collecting nearly $6,000 worth of gear she donated to Argentina through the United Through Sport charity and then-Beacon coach Dom Scott.
“We collected sticks and other equipment at Delaware Shore Field Hockey’s Hockey For Haxton benefit,” Riley said. “It was a big community effort.”
For her freshman year, she enrolled in an animal science class, based on her older sister’s advice.
“She said you get to work on the class farm, and that inspired me because it sounded cool,” Riley said. “I’ve had pets, but no experience with farm animals, and it was appealing to me because I love animals.”
Then, her teacher asked if she wanted to show a pig.
“I had not the slightest idea how to do it, but who can say no to spending their summer with that cuteness?” she said.
So, Riley tended her pig, nervously at first, raising, training and showing her pig at fairs.
“Other than the generic lesson that hard work pays off, the biggest lesson was accountability,” she said, “The animal depends on you, and you have to show up. It’s a bunch of responsibility in your hands at a whole new level when it’s a life.”
Two years later, Riley is vice president of Cape High’s Future Farmers of America chapter. She is tending one pig at Cool Spring Acres farm, home of Cape High FFA Advisor Ryan Ellis, where fellow students also care for their pigs.
“There are 10 pigs total, and everybody is showing at the Delaware State Fair; that’s how we end our season,” Riley said. “We typically spend spring and summer going to smaller county fairs. There’s a lot of waiting to see what happens right now. The May shows are probably off the books.”
Although schools are closed, the piglets are being cared for, with respect to social distancing; students follow a schedule determining when they go to the farm to work and feed their pigs.
“You have to work with them to get them friendly,” Riley said. “Pig showmanship focuses on you, how well you handle the animal, and how well you raised it and exercised it.”
To earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, Riley decided to help tentative students, like she once was, try something new. She created Hog Blog, a website detailing the basics of caring for and showing a pig.
“I had done some computer work at school, but I had never built a complete site before,” she said. “It was definitely a learning process.”
The site includes information about each breed, equipment needed to raise pigs, feeding and training information, and tips for showing pigs in a way that encourages young people to explore a possible future in agriculture.
“There are a lot of different things I love to do,” Riley said. “I’d like to find a way to balance different things and include agriculture with my interest in law and policy.”
Cape High FFA now uses Riley’s site to introduce the program and help students understand the market animal process and the agricultural industry, said mother Lynnette Klopp, who is also her Girl Scout Troop 287 leader.
Janet Maher, Riley's Gold Award advisor, said the Girl Scout Gold Award Riley received in January is the most prestigious award Girl Scout seniors and ambassadors can earn.
“The Gold Award is awarded to fewer than 6 percent of Girl Scouts annually,” Maher said. “Riley spent over a year working on her project.”
Riley is also finishing her one-year appointment to the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council Board of Directors as a girl representative; she was appointed by Chief Executive Officer Claudia Pena Porretti in April to attend board meetings.
At Cape High, Riley is a member of the Leo Club and National Honor Society. While she was glad COVID-19 didn’t interfere with her fall hockey season, spring soccer has yet to be played.