If you’ve passed by East Walnut Avenue near Orange High School, something along the side of the road may have caught your eye – a llama, which naturally invites the question: why is there a llama on the street? Prowl reached out to Shannon Deskin, a teacher in the Orange High School Agricultural Department, to answer some questions. Ms. Deskin oversees the farm at Orange High School, which the llama, named Lucy, and several other animals call home.
Why does Orange High School have a farm? What’s the purpose?
Orange High School is part of a national organization called Future Farmers of America (FFA). This agriculture program teaches students valuable skills they can use later in life like leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. We use our outdoor facilities as an extension of our normal classroom where students can get hands-on experience applying what they have learned.
What animals live on the farm? Are any unique or exotic?
We have a few different areas for students to work with animals. Firstly, we have breeding sheep that are bred annually, and students learn about gestation, lambing, health care, et cetera. We also have market animals. Students have the option of raising cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, or small animals. They then take them to the Orange County Fair over the summer to sell them or give them to their sponsors who have graciously taken off the financial burden of raising an animal. We also have a petting zoo that we take to various community events and schools. We have a wide variety of breeds for sheep and goats. We also have a miniature donkey, a llama, and an alpaca. Finally, we have some laying hens which we collect eggs from daily.
Why a llama, alpaca, and miniature horse as opposed to more traditional farm animals?
Most of our animals are rescued or donated. Also, those animals make our petting zoo unique.
Are the eggs from the hens used in the cafeteria? Where do they go after you’ve harvested them?
We sell our eggs mostly to teachers and students. They are a small fundraiser for our program.
How much do you sell the eggs for?
They’re five dollars per dozen. We also encourage carton recycling, so if we get five cartons back, they get a free dozen. We reuse them as much as we can.
Back to the llama and the alpaca, could you provide any facts about them?
Llamas and alpacas are related to camels. Llamas tend to have a courser fiber, are larger, and have a higher chance of spitting. Alpacas tend to be smaller and have a much fine, more valuable fiber. They can spit, but it is not as likely. Our llama is named Lucy and our alpaca is Bruce. Lucy is very mellow for a llama and enjoys petting zoos. Bruce just wants to be with Lucy.
Where do the animals come from?
Most of our petting zoo animals have been rescued from bad situations. They are able to live out their days here while helping educate our community about agriculture.
How are the animals on the farm cared for?
All students in FFA are required to have a Supervised Agriculture Experience Project. Students can choose what area of the farm they would like to work in: plants or animals. The animals eat twice a day, every day. This requires students to be present on weekends and even breaks. It is a lesson in responsibility.
Have the students ever mistreated the animals? Or conversely, have any students ever formed special bonds with the animals?
Our Orange High students are incredibly respectful. They put so much time and care into their animals. I have never had one of our Panthers mistreat an animal. Unfortunately, we have had outside individuals break onto the farm and do some awful things to a turkey that is no longer with us. We have not had an incident since. (Ms. Deskin is referring to when two Chapman students stole and abused Tim the Turkey in 2016).
Is there any breed of animal that seems to be a favorite among the kids?
All the animals are loved. Each student may have their own favorite. I’d say our miniature donkey, Cadbury, is usually a crowd favorite when we attend events.