By Tim Bean

The good people of Porter County just proved there’s still plenty of heart left in America’s Heartland.

This was revealed during the 2022 4-H Livestock Auction on July 28th, part of the 4-H Celebration Sale, and the commercial climax of the 2022 Porter County Fair.

In only minutes, and to the thunderous applause and tears of a packed barn, bidding on a young man’s 300-pound hog broke state and county records. This champion brought in a show-stopping, jaw-dropping $340 per pound.

Now do the math…$340 x 300lbs = $102,000. 

It looks like someone misplaced a couple zeros, but you read that correctly: $102,000. Check out this livestreamed video uploaded to YouTube by nwitimestv afterwards.

This was no ordinary hog, mind you. Raised by 10-year-old 4-H member Hudson Duttlinger, this prestigious pig was named the 2022 Reserve Grand Champion Gilt*. In Midwest county fairs, it’s traditional for local businesses, politicians, and other community members to give the auction champions a little bidding boost as a sign of support. It’s partly advertising and partly good-natured ribbing.

*gilt = a young female hog that has not yet given birth

However, this auction bidding was no simple “boost”. It was a figurative gallon of coffee, Red Bull, and steroids, only in the form of money.

The 4-H Celebration Sale website gives us a clearer picture. Under the page subheading Interested in Being a Buyer? the organizers list the average price by pound and by total for livestock sold at these auctions:

Swine – $2.00 to $2.50 per pound (250 lbs. +/-) = ~ $625.00.” 

Duttlinger family posing behind champion July 28. Brooks, Eric, Hudson, and Ashlee.

Hudson’s champion hog sold for more than 160 times the average market price. 

The inspiration for this incredible event came from the GoFundMe page “Duttlinger Family Scholarship Fund” created two weeks ago by 4-H Celebration Sale co-chairs Jonathan and Anna Kraft, Valparaiso residents and close friends to the Duttlinger family. Both families are community leaders and often work side-by-side in a parade of community and school projects. Hudson’s mother Ashlee became very ill and the news struck a terrible blow to both families. Jonathan Kraft details the sad news on the GoFundMe page:

Several years ago Ashlee [Duttlinger] was diagnosed with colon cancer, and has been battling ever since. She was in remission, and then it all came back again. It has been an up and down battle for years, but never once has Ashlee had a bad attitude about anything in life….Unfortunately her fight has become too much, and they have brought in hospice to make her more comfortable. Though as she texted with Anna a few days ago, she said this is not the end and she will continue to battle. At 38 years old, no mother should have to say goodbye to her children.

Using organizing skills honed by decades of professional and personal experience, the Krafts put together this bidding “war” for the 2022 auction, and by the time the gavel cracked SOLD, 116 donations had been made, many over $500. These donations were treated a collective buyer for the auction.

A view down the 2022 Porter Co. Fair Midway

When Hudson stepped into the auction circle on Thursday night, he had thousands of eyes trained on him, but no doubt he thought of one set in particular: his mom Ashlee Duttlinger, watching her son’s hard work shatter 4-H records on the auction’s livestream. No mother could be prouder.

Once butchered and processed, the group of collective “buyers” will donate it to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, which provides millions of free meals each year to families in need.

Now, take a step back and consider how beautiful this entire operation is. You could teach this is in business school. Instead of simply collecting and passing on donations, they collected and turned those donations into a force multiplier.

1.) The astounding price maximized future donations by creating a newsworthy event, so professional and semi-professional (moi) journalists can stoke public interest.

2.) This auction also fixed a permanent spot in Porter County Fair records for Hudson, his mother, and the entire family, since that bidding records won’t be broke anytime soon.

3.) The Duttlinger name will still hang proudly from a banner in the 4-H auction barn when my kids’ kids have kids. For Hudson, that record is going to look great on college and employment applications.

4.) And in pure Chicagoland tradition of not even wasting a squeal, they will donate the meat to further benefit the community and fill empty bellies.

Most importantly, it shows a fellow Northwest Indiana Hoosier she is loved she is not only by her family and friends, but by strangers from across this corner of Indiana. I don’t think such an orchestra of caring could happen anywhere else in the Midwest.

Northwest Indiana is an oddity in the cultural landscape of Indiana. We live in Chicagoland, whether you want to admit it or not, or whether Chicago wants to admit it or not. The city doesn’t like us because we’re too country, and the Indiana country folk think we’re too like Chicago.

This corner of America’s Heartland is, culturally and commercially, its own place, but this place takes care of its own.

Want to Know More?

I’m only providing a single link here: the GoFundMe page “Duttlinger Family Scholarship Fund.” Although the auction is over, the family is still happily excepting donations.

Remember, anything you donate isn’t going to disappear into some charity fog. It’s going directly toward securing the future of Eric and Ashlee Duttlinger’s sons, Hudson and Brooks. If you ever wanted your generosity to make a difference, here it is.

The Duttlinger Family