Saturday, February 11, 2012

Visits to The Ohio State University

One of the things I enjoy the most is talking to people about farming. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the farm community and I love sharing stories about my adventures as a farmer. From time to time, I am invited to guest lecture at The Ohio State University, and I always look forward to these opportunities. I truly enjoyed the years that I spent teaching high school, and these lectures allow me to revisit memories of educating young people. Within the last two weeks, I have had the opportunity to visit two of my favorite classes at OSU: Animal Science 597 and Animal Science 600. The students were great in both classes, and were kind enough to laugh at all of my terrible goat jokes!

On January 24th, I visited 597 with Dr. Hill and Dr. Moeller. This class focuses on human and animal interactions. I was most honored when Dr. Hill was teaching it a couple years ago and I was invited to lecture to the students on a farmer's perspective of human usage of animals. I always look forward to the dynamics of this class. Typically, about half the students are from the school of agriculture and half are from the general student population. This makes for varied approaches to animal care and diverse experiences with animals! During the quarter, students also hear from commodity organizations, animal "rights" groups, representatives from hunting and natural resources, etc. I approach this as an opportunity to simply share stories about my experiences as a farmer. While other lecturers may come in armed with facts and figures, I want to convey an understanding about my life with animals (and why I cannot imagine a life without them).

The 597 students usually hear stories ranging from caring for goats to working with the ethnic community. I address my understanding of the regard for animals by the world's religions (my religion degree finally pays off!) and the manner in which I approach the term "rights" (exactly what I taught my students in high school government class). This time in class, I also read the story of The Captain from my blog. That was a difficult decision. I had never read that piece aloud. As much as I cried while writing it, I was very unsure if I could make it through reading it to 100 students. I did make it through, although my voice nearly broke several times. I had to stop looking at the students, and just focus on the words: some of the ladies had tears in their eyes and I knew if I looked directly at them, I would never be able to finish reading it. As hard as it was to do so, I wanted the students to understand why I farm, and why I hold my beliefs. In her short, beautiful life and painful, tragic death, The Captain encapsulated everything about my life as a farmer. I suspect that she made a much more lasting impression on each of the students than I ever could have with statistics on food production or the science behind animal management.

On February 8th, I was back at OSU to lecture in the animal science capstone course, 600. Being with this group of students always makes me excited for the future of agriculture! These young people are preparing for careers working with animals, and I adore seeing their vibrancy and youthful enthusiasm! Also, I have the opportunity to "preach to the choir" . . . young people who understand animals and enjoy (or pretend to enjoy!) all my random goat facts! A good third of the students in 600 this quarter had listened to me lecture in a previous class -- that really forces me to try to remember what stories I have bored them with before! This was a very fun group that asked some excellent questions, and I enjoyed speaking with several students after class. I try to leave this class with two thoughts: pursue your passion and embrace education. When I was their age, I never could have imagined that a religion degree, graduate work in economics, and a love of farming would lead to the opportunity to run a business selling sheep & goats to a diverse religious community! A huge thanks to Dr. Boyles and Dr. Ottubre for welcoming me back to this course!

As fun as it is to stand in front of a group and tell goat stories, the best part is meeting the students. I love engaging in dialogue with them in class and hearing from some of them later. I always encourage the students to write down my email address . . . for those burning goat questions in the future! I had the pleasure of welcoming one of the students from 597 to visit my farm on February 10th -- she wanted to learn more about goats & I was delighted to have assistance with tagging babies and trimming their mama's hooves! Mary Beth can now assert the truth behind my ridiculous stories: she has met Red the Chicken (who really is 8 years old with a clipped beak!) and she has seen the spot near the water hydrant that offered such a clear view for the little elementary kids on the schoolbus to see me waving a knife and a goat leg! After Mary Beth heard the sad story of The Captain, I was glad she was able to meet the new puppy Sheba. It is always wonderful to have visitors to the farm!

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