Episode 2: A heartwarming & heartrending summer...

Winter Prep—the easy way, setting expectations and USDA Youth programs

Show Notes: Getting Ready for Winter & Exchange Students!

We are still in podcast catch up mode. I’m going to take us back just a few months, to the fall to talk about winter preparations for the goats, exchange student expectations, and a bit about USDA loans and grants.

U.S. Exchange Programs

Fresh Air Fund child from New York was so much fun! Here he is meeting one of our goats, RC Cola.

Every year we host exchange students and we LOVE it! Our experiences come from a variety of sources and our hosting experiences last from 10 days in the summer to 10 months over the school year. There are some things we have learned about this process. For the short timers (30 days or less) these recommendations are not so important. We actually do treat these guys as guests and try to have as much fun with them in the short time they are here! However for the full-year, in-school students, things are very different. Here are a couple of recommendations for which, you can hear more details in the podcast!

  1. Treat them as family—immediately!
  2. Manage their crazy expectations
  3. Get the talking and engaged in the family
  4. Go over the rules. And then, be prepared to go over them again.

Oh, and one tidbit I forgot to mention in the podcast… They may nod, say yes and shake their heads, but you’ll discover that, especially at first, there is more of a language gap than seems apparent. You will have to repeat it again…. And, again.

German exchange student, Tobias, falling in love with farm life!

One thing most of the exchange students are not usually exposed to is farm life.  We don’t expect our students to work the farm. Most are so shell shocked at the ruralness of the US and Virginia, that the thought of being on a farm is akin to a near death experience. We find, though, after they relax and change their expectations, they usually pitch in on their own, and even enjoy it!

USDA/FSA Youth Programs

Our first Friesian lamb born to Eryn’s newest farm addition.

A different Government program we are involved with (aside from the U.S. Department of State Exchange Programs) are the USDA Youth Programs. Designed to get youth involved in Agriculture while teaching business and financial management, these programs offer up to $5,000 at a very low interest. Eryn was approved for a Farm Service Agency youth loan 3 years ago and just was re-approved for another installment to add to her herd. She used the money to add 6 amazing La Mancha does, 3 Barbados Blackbelly sheep and 1 Friesian ewe.

More on the Lazy Farmer

As I mentioned in the podcast, we start our winterization process in the spring. While that may not sound lazy, that is exactly what makes the whole thing so easy. Well, that and having ample property. If you are trying to do the animal thing on very small property, you have to get more creative and manage things a bit more intensely. I have to say, as we are looking for farm land near the city of Richmond, VA to start our farm-based high school, it is becoming apparent that we may have to do just that. Land is expensive near urban areas. However, then the projects will be the student’s and they will manage them!

The winter goat field in late fall when goats are moved back in.

For now, our process is to rotate the animals to a different field. We allow some of the other livestock to cross graze the goat winter field and then we leave it dormant for the entire summer. We take our time cleaning out the winter/kidding barn. Then, in the fall, we set up the warming barrels and creep gates. In late fall, we open the gate and let the goats back in.

Now, of course, it’s spring. We had a very mild winter with a March cold snap and bit of snow. With early spring grasses already appearing, the goats went out to the big field early. Without kids, we didn’t have a need to keep them close. More on that story later next time.

Resources

LOCAL STEW U – our farm-based high school website.
FSA Youth Loans – loan programs to get youth involved in agriculture.

Exchange Programs

Fresh Air Fund – brings children from inner city New York to the country side, literally for fresh air. They send children to 13 states and Canada now!
4-H Inbound Program – Brings in pre- and early-teens for a one month, homestay program. They also have longer programs.
Academic Year in America – AYA is a full year in-school exchange program. I have tried others to get students from asian countries that AYA doesn’t partner with. But, I keep coming back to this one!

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