What Do You Do in the Winter? Farmyard

I get this question all the time. It’s funny. People seem to think, “When the animals disappear, don’t you disappear, too?”

I don’t! I continue to be responsible for the Children’s Farmyard animals in their off-campus winter home, where they stay warm and cozy, instead of being in the cold, breezy farmyard pastures. These animals include Miss Piggy the sow, Dudley and Penelope, our miniature Sicilian donkeys, Feta, Zola, Raisin, Blossom, and Strudel the goats, and about 40 chickens of many different breeds, including Barred Rock, Polish Crested, and Silver Laced Wyandotte. The rabbits actually go to school in the off-season: Snowflake lives in our preschool Adventures room, and Earl resides at the Renaissance School in the Farm Barn.

One of my off-season responsibilities is to ensure that we have baby animals in the farmyard next season. That means breeding the sow via artifiical insemination in February. It’s not easy: a sow is fertile for only 24 hours every three weeks, so timing is everything! An Alpine buck named Earle visited Zola and Blossom for three weeks in late December, so they should be due to kid in June.

My job in the off-season also expands to other things; namely, professional development. Educator Susie Marchand and I plan and teach the ABCs of Farm-Based Education, one of my favorite workshops that Shelburne Farms offers to farmers and educators every March and October. This March, I’ll also be co-presenting a third ABCs workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as co-teaching a workshop at NOFA-VT’s annual winter conference. Professional development is the most energizing thing I do in the off-season. I get to share all our educational work and meet other amazing professionals. It always expands and inspires me, no matter how cold and dark it is outside!

In between all this, I help support all the great Family Programs we offer, like Play Dates and Winterfest. A special highlight is any time I get to help out in our weekly preschool Adventures program (when I also get to visit Snowflake!).

But ultimately, I come full circle and turn my attention back to the Children’s Farmyard. Susie Marchand, educator Cat Wright, and I always take time to debrief the previous season and plan for the next. We’re now in the process of hiring seasonal staff so that we can have another incredible team this year to welcome all of you back the Farmyard. See you in May!

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Great job, Rachel!

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