Gr8 Neighbor opens doors for students’ farm animals

Gr8 Neighbor: Pearl River High School

PEARL RIVER, La. (WVUE) - On the North Shore, a group of volunteers is working hard to keep the agricultural lifestyle alive for the next generation.

They are making sure some students have a place their farm animals can call home.

At the age of 16, Jennie Schaefer is used to raising pigs. She has four of them and right now, her focus is on getting Lucy the pig ready for her next livestock show.

Jennie says, "They're very intelligent, but they're also very stubborn. I did teach two of my pigs how to sit and that was easy, but I don't know how I did that."

When Jennie started high school at Pearl River High, she was the only student there at the time showing livestock.

"We're a country small town school so it was a surprise, but I was like that's crazy," Jennie says.

You see the law didn't used to allow for farm animals within city limits, so there was no need for a barn on the school campus. The law changed this year, but building a facility could take a while.

Jennie's dad Richie decided waiting wasn't an option.

He approached the Williams family to donate some of the space in their old barn on Oak Ranch Rd, received the approval of the school board and then gathered up volunteers to start repairs.

A few pigs and goats have already moved in. They're hoping chickens and rabbits are next.

"You get frustrated sometimes because you get out here and only a few people have shown up to work," says Schaefer. "But then you remember when you see these little kids walking around with their pigs or goats, that they wouldn't have this if the farm wasn't here. They wouldn't have those animals."

Now students from several Pearl River schools, as part of the Future Farmer of America and 4H programs, are taking advantage of this work in progress to house their animals.

Students like McKenna Walters, who just got a pig named Millie.

"I was excited because I've always wanted a pig," says Walters."I like showing animals because I think it's cool."

Britnee Symons is an agriculture teacher at Creekside Elementary.

She loves the opportunity her students are getting.

"A lot of them have never seen goats or pigs or chickens," Symons says. "This is the first time they're getting to touch an animal like that. It's crazy to me because I've been around it my whole life, and they're loving it."

But there's more work to be done at the barn..

Kenny Martin, a volunteer, says, "We're putting a pen for the kids to walk the animals and then a concrete wash rack for the kids to wash their animals and that kind of stuff."

Richie and his volunteers, with the help of some local businesses, are up for the challenge.

"When you go to the fair, you see kids coming in and taking pictures with animals they've never seen before, like cows, pigs and sheep," Schaefer says. "And now we're having local kids here being able to do that. The kids are learning a lot. Most have never owned any livestock and now they're getting that opportunity."

"I can't express the gratitude, all the help and they continue to do it. It's their free time. They're not getting paid for it. They choose to do it," says Symons.

This month's FOX 8 great neighbors say they're simply trying to broaden the agricultural horizon for kids in their community.

The students are thankful too.

"They all deserve it.They all come out here and work very hard," says Jennie. They want what's best for the kids and want them to be able to show. It's all very selfless and they're doing great things."

If you’d like to nominate a great neighbor, here’s the link: https://www.fox8live.com/gr8neighbors/

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