How To Survive Your Summer As A Petting Farm Tour Guide

How To Survive Your Summer As A Petting Farm Tour Guide

Your 22-step plan to make it through the best and most chaotic job you could ever have.
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Background information: Growing up, my wonderful grandpa was a man of many odd jobs. Most notably he was a mystery shopper, a St. Nick impersonator, a school bus driver, and a petting farm tour guide. (Yeah, he was the greatest.)

For quite a few years he worked at Green Meadows Farm, near where I grew up in Waterford, WI. He passed away several years ago, but shortly thereafter I was invited by Mavis, the owner and a wonderful family friend I'd known since childhood, to work at the farm for a summer during college. I agreed happily, and for the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I carried on my grandpa's legacy and worked at the farm. My main responsibility for the first half of the summer was as a tour guide for school field trips, day camps, church groups, YMCA groups and so on. And man, what a crazy, fun, nerve-wracking experience it was.

Obviously most people can't probably relate to this on a personal level, (if you can, hit me up. We have so much to talk about) but if you've ever thought about being a tour guide at a petting zoo infiltrated daily by hundreds of school children, here's what to expect and how to survive. If this article makes you consider it, good call. It may sound crazy, but it's definitely the good kind of crazy.

(P.S. Shout out to Green Meadows Farm, the best petting farm in existence.)

1. Read the employee manual in the days prior to your first tour.

Recite farm animal trivia to your family at all hours of the day. Ignore their pleas for silence. You have to be ready.

2. Do not get too confident when, on the first day, you are given a well-behaved 30-kid church group.

They are easing you in. This will not last.

3. Do not quit when, on the second day, you are given an unruly 65-kid group and you realize that yesterday was a scam.

4. Revel in your skills as you spout off facts about chickens as though you grew up on this very farm.

(You did not, you grew up in the suburbs.) [Also, it should be noted that chickens lay eggs the same color as their earlobes. Yep. #truthbomb]

5. When your group’s teacher decides that they know more than you because they’ve “been here before":

Resist the strong urge to yell, “Well this is my job! How about you focus on not losing Jimmy for a fifth time??”

6. In the case of post-hayride pandemonium, use chaperones to corral children into a smaller space.

Under no circumstances should you let them discover the rubber duck racing station past the chicken coop. You will not make that mistake twice.

7. Ignore the desire to yell at the overly concerned parents who stop to use hand sanitizer every time a child touches a wood chip or blade of grass.

Do, however, request that children refrain from shoving their entire hands into bowls of pig feed from which pigs are currently eating.

8. Play it cool when the goats escape.

Even when one pulls out a clump of your hair, maintain your composure and causally force or lure the reluctant goats back home. Do not let the goats get the best of you. Never let them see the fear in your eyes.

9. Never cut across the hill to the pony ring if any other group is heading that way too.

Pony ring breaches of etiquette can burn coworker bridges in an instant.

10. Get very comfortable with milking cows.

You will have to assist 50 children milk the cow each day for 2 months. Be aware that half of the kids will think it's amazing and will want to squirt you and anyone else in the vicinity. The other half will look at you with extreme suspicion and disgust in their eyes and make you do all of the milking work.

11. Don’t go directly into the kitten barn without first traveling through the goat family area and the silo room.

You will irrevocably damage the delicate balance of the farm should you stray from the expected path. Additionally, remember that most kids lose their damn minds in the presence of kittens and no longer remember how to act like humans.

12. Do not climb into the calf enclosure without being able to easily and gracefully remove yourself once you’ve done what you needed to.

13. The small animal building is a time vortex and the loudest, most echo-y place in the known universe.

Set a strict 7-minute policy and keep to it. Get in and get out.

14. When the llamas are feeling especially saucy:

(Which is basically always, llamas are crazy horny.) During your tour, casually point to a cloud or a goat or a bug or anything to keep kids’ questions and parents’ jokes under control.

15. When a child from a visiting family (not associated with your group in any way, it's important to add) slides under a fence and begins to admire the enormous draft horse from 5 inches away, quickly (and with an air of fake calm) get the kid the hell out of there.

Lawsuits are frowned upon at the farm.

16. When taking your group to the hand washing trough before lunch, forgo paper towels altogether.

Convince the children that air drying is another magical part of “farm life."

17. Do not cry when your group of 60 people requests their third twenty-minute bathroom stop in the span of 2 hours.

Be strong.

18. When twelve kids ask to hold your hands at once, let them.

Even when half of them have to cling to your arms and start stepping on your heels. If they love you, they are slightly more likely to listen to your facts about turkeys and stop throwing stuff at each other.

19. If you care about your sanity, stay away from the Music Machine.

Yes, the kids love it, but is it worth the temporary deafness and the overwhelming stress that naturally accompany 50 kids banging on pots, barrels and cans at the same time?

20. When children and adults alike start complaining of the 90-degree heat, calmly remind them that you and the animals are hot as well, and that you will all survive.

[And that no, the one drinking fountain on the opposite side of the farm is not a convenient detour.]

21. And at the end of the tour, when you’ve passed the pigs and the geese and the peacocks and have finally arrived back at the exit, wait patiently as they take another half hour to load up the bus and drive away.

Wave jovially as the bus pulls out of the gravel parking lot. You’ve done it.

22. Go home and sleep.

Tomorrow might not be so easy.

Cover Image Credit: Green Meadows Farm

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Don't Boycott Fairlife Because Of Fair Oaks Farms Just Yet

These shameful acts do not represent the dairy industry or agriculture as a whole.

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I am currently enrolled in Auburn University's College of Agriculture set to graduate in a short time. I am majoring in Poultry Production with a minor in Animal Science. I also work on a small cow-calf operation on the weekends and am completing an internship at a chicken processing plant. I am well-versed in areas of animal welfare, proper husbandry, and have many certifications and countless hours training in proper animal handling for all manner of livestock and meat-producing animals.

Because of this, my Facebook feed and other social media accounts are often filled with farming videos, new agricultural technologies, and the occasional Peta ad. Upon opening Facebook this week, I came across the Fair Oaks Farm scandal. I typically don't click on videos depicting animal abuse allegations without first doing a little research of my own.

Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) is an organization promoting the cessation of severe animal cruelty. A noble cause for sure, but as with many of these organizations, they often seek to demonize agricultural organizations by preying on the heartstrings of individuals who know little about farming or the industry as a whole.

Often, modern farming activities are misconstrued with either adulterated information, misguiding comments, or extremely old, outdated footage. While these actions recorded by ARM in the Fair Oaks Farm were very real instances, they were isolated.

These organizations never seek to show what humane treatment of animals looks like. They never aim to showcase good handling practices. For every minute of abuse, they videoed, how many hours of proper conduct was carried out?

Upper management, supervisors, and individuals in a position to stop unacceptable behavior are incapable of being everywhere at once. In addition, when offenders know they are being watched by such individuals, they will discontinue the behavior until they are unsupervised again.

Because of this, any company that handles livestock practices some form of the "See Something, Say Something" rule. This rule, under one of its many name variations basically means if an employee of any level sees another employee participating in behavior that is inhumane, they are required to report it immediately or risk termination. The undercover videographers were at one point, employed by Fair Oaks Farm.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but that makes the ARM videographers employees of Fair Oaks Farm which men they went through the "See Something, Say Something" training, and knew they were supposed to report it, but didn't.

How many times in the four-month observation of the ARM videographers could they have reported the actions of the men in the videos? How many times did they fail to notify the company of the responsible party's actions? How many of these cruel instances of abuse been prevented had they notified management and how much sooner could the culprit have been terminated? They allowed these activities to continue to transpire until they had enough evidence to smear the dairy industry. They inhibited proper company function and they disregarded the safeguard practices the company had in place.

Fair Oaks Farm is not blameless, and these acts should not go unpunished, but boycotting Fairlife isn't the way to do it.

Sure, boycotting it will pull money away from the company until they inevitably source milk from another dairy in response to the media and consumer's cry for change, but how does this help the dairy cattle at Fair Oaks or the employees who have abided by proper animal handling? When you boycott, the responsible farm and responsible parties fall out of the public eye and the abuse goes uncorrected.

Boycotting is forgetting.

How about instead of refusing to buy their milk, you push for changes in their employee vetting processes or make amendments to their animal welfare checks. Don't let people forget about Fair Oaks, and don't turn your back on a farm because of the actions of a few. Instead of pretending the company doesn't exist, we hold them to a higher standard. Then, we will see change.

But if you simply cannot continue supporting this company, I understand. It's a hard concept to come to terms with. But remember, these shameful acts do not represent the dairy industry or agriculture as a whole. Do not stop supporting the dairy industry and the countless dairy farmers nationally.

Do not assume this is normal behavior because it isn't.

The employees in question were terminated before the release of the video campaign because a responsible employee reported them.

Do not turn your back on agriculture or farmers, and do not idolize organizations like ARM who interfere with proper business practices in order to capture the information they want.

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