Keene High School Student Spends Semester Working in the Dairy

During the fall semester of 2021, Keene High School Student Grace Greene participated in the Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) program offered at Keene High School. ELO provides students an opportunity to explore various careers with hands on learning experience. Grace was interested in farming and selected Stonewall Farm.

While Stonewall Farm has hosted students from the Cheshire Career Center previously, this was the first time Stonewall Farm hosted an ELO student thanks to the outreach of Education Director Rebecca Lancaster. She reached out to Keene High recognizing the various learning opportunities present at the farm for students. “Stonewall Farm is a non-profit working educational farm. It is part of our mission to provide exposure and learning experiences like this to students, new and beginning farmers, and the community at large. Hopefully people walk away with a deeper appreciation for how our food is produced and will be future land stewards and advocates for strong local food systems,” shared Julie Davenson, Executive Director at Stonewall Farm. It takes staff time and resources to support students and experiences like this, as well as keeping our grounds and barns open and accessible to the public. The more people support our work, the more opportunities we can provide for our students and community. Below is Grace’s final reflection paper where she shares a little bit about her experience at the farm. Herds Manager Mark Daniels noted it was impressive Grace had an appreciation for learning how to properly use a pitchfork. He said so many people never have that experience or exposure and working in the barn provides not only education about agriculture but important life skills and work ethic and confidence.

Stonewall Career Exploration.   12/17/21. Written by Grace Greene

I wanted to do something for myself, choose my own learning activity and research. I heard about the opportunity and I thought I would get a lot from the experience. My goals were to learn about animal farming careers and interact with professionals and focus on learning general animal farming/animal health, veterinary science, safety with livestock, basic animal care/chores, rotational grazing, milking, and value added products. All of my relationships with my instructors were good, but I worked with Mark on site the most, he taught me a lot about the cows and the farm. He often told me that I was doing good work with the animals and with other farm workers and visitors.

I feel like I met all of my goals. I learned the different roles on a dairy farm, such as milking, animal care, grazing rotation, and making value added products. I also learned a bit about crop farming while I was there. When I got to the farm in the afternoon, I would first feed the babies in the baby barn their hay and water. Then I would get the adults their hay and after that, their grain. Earlier in the year, when there was grass, I would help bring them in. At first I was nervous around them, but I grew more comfortable around them. After feeding I would help with the milking, I learned how to use the milking machines, the cleaning of the utters, and testing the quality of the milk beforehand. Later in the year, when there were calves, I got to feed them their milk with a bottle.

Some of the things that worked for me were having a regular schedule, Creating a mental checklist, and having the dairy farmers around to ask questions. The google classroom for all the work was also helpful. My communication with everyone was good. My biggest weakness was remembering to fill out my journal and bringing it to meetings, but I was able to verbally share with my teachers. 

When I started I was nervous around the cows and the farmers, but my confidence grew over time. Now I’m very comfortable around all of them. I know so much more about the farm practices and the individual cows and other animals and I gained much from my research of nutrition in the dairy industry.

 For the most part, my ELO did not interfere with other commitments, the schedule that was created was perfect for me. I have always been interested in working with animals and this has helped me see what options were out there and what work is involved. I still don’t know what I really want to do as a full time career, but this has helped me see what I like and what I’m good at. I learned a lot of farming skills and techniques, like how to properly use a pitchfork, but I think this ELO has really helped my communication skills and general people skills, which has been nice. My impression didn’t really change since I have always liked farms and animals, and that is still true, but I did learn how troublesome goats can be when left to their own devices, also the chickens are mean. This ELO worked out very well for me, It was pretty much what I envisioned. I’m glad I took this opportunity and I will miss these cows, so I may come back to visit.