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4-H member supported by livestock buyers

ESCANABA – For the second time in as many years, U.P. State Fair livestock buyers came together to support a 4-H member dealing with a health issue.

This year, more than 80 businesses and individuals submitted a joint bid of more than $62 a pound for 18-year-old 4-H member and muscular dystrophy patient Christian Johnson’s hog at the fair’s Junior Market Livestock Sale.

The sale was primarily coordinated by Wallace-based Moker Farms owner Jim Moker, along with his mother Vickie and his father Jerome. Moker said he had known Christian, who has been a 4-H member since childhood, long before this year’s fair.

“He’s always had pigs at the fair…since he was nine years old,” he said.

Christian’s father Dave Johnson, owner of Johnson Farms LLC in Daggett, said his son has also had health problems since his youth. These have led to several complications, including an open-heart surgery about two years ago.

“He’s been through a lot the last few years,” Dave said.

Though the Johnson family was unable to find a diagnosis for these problems for quite some time, Moker said recent testing has helped clarify matters.

“They’re about 90 percent sure he has muscular dystrophy,” he said.

According to Moker, discussions about doing something to support Christian had begun months before the fair. However, the planning process started to come together much closer to the auction date.

“We really put it together a week before the fair,” he said.

This was not the first time livestock buyers at the fair have shown their support of sellers dealing with health setbacks. Last year, 50 buyers purchased a hog raised by Alesha Gustafson, a 4-H member who underwent emergency surgery for Crohn’s disease shortly before the livestock auction, for $52.50 a pound.

“It was inspired by that,” Moker said. “(We) just thought it was a really good idea.”

Christian said he had no idea what would happen before the auction began. He only realized what was going on after bids for his hog, a 330-pound animal known as Chester the 4th, started to come in.

“It was just crazy,” he said.

Executive Director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce Vickie Micheau, who was present during the auction, said it was an emotional experience for everyone involved.

“As I looked around, there wasn’t a dry eye that I could see,” she said.

Christian said he is thankful for the help provided by the bidders.

“It was amazing,” Christian said. “It’s truly a blessing, and I love the community.”

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