Monday, April 7, 2014

Dear friends and neighbors, 

I always loved driving by Historic Wagner Farm and seeing the cows in the field. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to learn about the farming that used to be prevalent in our area, or interact with large animals outside of a zoo. I hope to become a veterinarian one day, so it’s important that I gain exposure to all different types of animals. As a volunteer for the Farm, I have had the unique opportunity to learn about caring for livestock while remaining in an urban environment.

The Farm is a really cool way for kids and adults in our area to learn about how farms operate and to interact with livestock.  Last summer, I began volunteering at the farm as a livestock interpreter. 

In my role, I have to learn about the different animals we have on the farm and answer questions about them for guests. I enjoy learning about our animals, and being able to share what I learn and my enthusiasm with the public. I’ve also gotten to help one of our farmers, Andres, take care of and clean up after the animals. It is a rewarding experience for me because I’ve gained confidence working with cows that I have been able to apply in a lot of my animal science courses at school. I also am more knowledgeable about cow management and farm maintenance. These are important skills for a veterinarian because they need to understand how to work with animals, and how their environment as a whole can affect their health.

My experiences at Wagner have not only been rewarding, but have also been a lot of fun. Everyone is incredibly welcoming and happy to teach you new things. One of my favorite experiences was getting to drive our draft horses Bob and Sue in a sleigh. Two of the teamsters let me ride along with them in the winter while they exercised the horses. They taught me about caring for them and how to drive them. 

It was really exciting learning how to use the reigns to communicate with the horses and feeling how they responded to my leads. I found it interesting how the way I used the reigns to communicate with the horses, is similar to how I use a leash to train service dogs. I didn’t expect to discover this commonality between interacting with such different animals. Horses have been one of my favorite animals since I was very young, and it was awesome getting the experience of driving a sleigh!

I have had a wonderful experience volunteering at Wagner Farm. I learned more than I could have hoped for, and I look forward to continuing to gain experience here.