When life gives you hogs

Local boy turns hobby into diversified business

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To contact Nathan Chapman and NC Enterprises about hogs for sale or to inquire more about the business, call 629-3079 or 824-8549.

— Sometimes you're up early, and sometimes you're up late. Sometimes, you're up early and late, J.B. Chapman said.

Chapman leaned against a wall inside his son's hog barn. He smiled and easily slid his fingers into his jean pockets, leaving the thumbs casually resting underneath his belt.

His son, Nathan, is a 14-year-old Moffat County High School freshman that makes his dad proud.

For one, he doesn't complain when he's up early or late, tending to his hog business, officially known as NC Enterprises. He deals in show pigs, rodeo pigs and healthy livestock feed, and plans to start processing ham soon.

"It's sometimes crazy to think someone like me could get involved in something this big," Nathan said.

"Your days are definitely busy," he added while rubbing the coarse hair of a large sow.

Nathan isn't new to the livestock game. He's done 4-H and Future Farmers of America competitions since he was 8, starting with lambs, his father's favorite animal when he was a boy.

Nathan left sheep behind for pigs, an animal he said was unfairly characterized for being filthy.

"They're cleaner, believe it or not," Nathan said.

But that's not really why he likes hogs better.

"They have definitely a lot more character," he said. "A lot of pretty good personalities in here."

Nathan did point out one jerk pig, though. A rough-and-tumble sow that kept trying to pin down the other poor girl stuck in the same pen.

Little spats between hogs are something anyone can expect when raising a few, Nathan said.

What he didn't expect at the outset was how big his business would grow.

"I didn't really know," he said. "I thought I might stick with five or six sows, and it just kept growing and growing."

Now he's up to 10 mother pigs making about 300 babies a year.

The best ones - traditional show pig breeds of the Yorkshire and Hampshire varieties - he sells to other kids in 4-H and Future Farmers. These make up most of his profits. He uses smaller-profile sales to cover most costs.

He sells the not-so best babies to fairs and rodeos for their fun and games - events such as greased pig wrangling.

There's a substantial amount of money to be had from selling show pigs. Nathan recalled one large ranch collecting about $13,000 for one pig.

Though making money from show pigs may be an endgame for some, Nathan plans to diversify and get into the meat business, too.

Sometime soon, local shoppers will be able to find Nathan's Berkshire Gold brand ham, fresh meat that's U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected and processed at Mountain Meats in Craig.

When Nathan and his family gave a presentation to the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, he said it seemed like a marketable venture, given the spur in demand for locally grown eats.

"We hope people will see that through the advertising," he said.

Nathan doesn't know quite what draws him to animals, but he can't deny there is a strong pull.

"I grew up around them, and I still like them," he said.

That doesn't interfere with his new business idea, however. Nathan said he does not get hurt when one of his animals is made food for someone's table.

"For some kids it is hard," he said. "I've made myself get used to it. I'm not too hurt when they're gone."

Speaking as a businessman, Nathan added the only hard part is letting go of some of his purebreds because they have good genes.

The tribulations and long hours of a small business owner aren't new to the Chapman family.

J.B. owns and runs Chapman Automotive in Craig, and his children have been running their own moneymakers for years now.

Natasha, the oldest at 18, started a retail grill business about nine years ago.

Nanaco (short for Natasha and Nathan Company), offers wood pellet grills for those who "know what they want their steak to taste like," J.B. said.

The father isn't proud because his son and daughter are merely in business - it's how they run their businesses, he said.

"Their work ethic is something else," he said. "That's vital. When you own your own business, you can't look at what you're paid hourly. You have to be willing to really work and be accountable."

Nathan and Natasha's business ethic sometimes can be surprising, J.B. added.

"We're proud of their level of customer service," he said. "Sometimes, the older we get and the longer we're in business, we drop the tolerance we have for problems. Not these two."

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