By Samantha Lopez, April 20, 2021
Cal Poly Pomona’s ASI partnered with AGRIscapes to reconnect with the curly and burly sheep and goats at Discovery Farm through a free, virtual event hosted on April 13 called Petting Zoo(m). Through demonstrations and Q&A segments, students obtained their dose of serotonin while observing and learning about farm animals.
The event’s 30 participants reunited virtually with the university’s livestock, attracting smiles as the animals ate and frolicked in their pens.
Jillian Wood, a second-year agricultural science student and live-in worker at the swine and sheep unit, demonstrated the maintenance that goes into caring for the animals as she bottle-fed the newborn animals, trimmed hooves and sheared the sheep’s fur to turn into yarn.
Throughout this unique experience, participants were encouraged to submit questions in the Zoom chat. The event boasted lively participation with questions covering instances of animals escaping, Wood’s first experience with trimming hooves and the parts of being a live-in worker.
For student participants like second-year mechanical engineering student Ana Jurado, the event served as an opportunity to reconnect with the campus’ animals after a year-long hiatus.
“It was such a stress reliever for me, even just hearing the goats,” Jurado said. “I learned so much from them, like how to trim the hooves and how to make yarn from the sheep fur. Also, the live-in worker was talking about when the animals are giving birth, they have to stay up all night even if they have a test the next day, which shows how much they care.”
Other participants like Andrea Vasquez, a third-year psychology student, shared that the virtual event made her reflect and reminisce on the times she spent with the animals in person.
“I truly miss it all — the smells, the feeling of their fur in between my fingers and just being able to connect with the animals,” Vasquez said. “I think they miss us too or, at least, the socialization of having more people around.”
Due to COVID-19, Discovery Farm canceled all in-person events, including its annual in-person Petting Farm, to comply with local health guidelines. In previous years, the traditional spring event that incorporated the Petting Farm was called Festival of Animals, according to ASI Student Activities Supervisor Jocelyn Chung, a third-year hospitality management student.
“This event was a twist on the Festival of Animals, where we would have a variety of animals visiting the campus, ranging from reptiles, birds and farm animals,” Chung said. “We revived it in the summer of 2020 to a virtual petting zoo and enjoyed working with their team, so we decided to bring it back for spring just in time for the sheep shaving and spring babies.”
Craig Walters, director of AGRIscapes, explained that the program utilized Zoom for several live events with ASI while the stay-at-home order was issued. According to Walters, the events are intended to go beyond just seeing the animals by incorporating an educational component for the public.
“We take for granted that we live in the biggest metropolitan area in the country that some people have no connection to farm animals or growing food,” Walters said. “That’s what we think of when we think about our main mission. In addition to educating students, we educate and inform the public and show them up close and personal what agriculture is all about.”
Traditionally, the public visited the Petting Farm for a total of $6 per person to bond and feed the animals on a one-on-one level. Student-workers were also present to observe and educate visitors on their animals, such as identifying the difference between sheep and goats.
The Discovery Farm team is currently waiting for campus health officials to approve resuming public events at its farm. According to Walters, the team anticipates reopening around June 1, when more sites are expected to open up.
For updates on the status of Discovery Farm events, visit https://www.cpp.edu/~agriscapes/covid-19.html.
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