Pitman High School’s Future Farmers of America chapter found a way to connect with the community this week in spite of the pandemic, inviting families to take part in a drive-thru “petting” zoo at the district farm on Thursday.
The event was meant to help the community celebrate National FFA Week and saw a seemingly endless line of cars snake through the farm on Taylor Road, where Turlock Unified School District students of all ages often receive lessons in ag-related topics. Visitors were treated to up-close views of the animals from their cars, including a miniature horse, a donkey, a wooly sheep, a goat, chickens and piglets. Some, like the horse and donkey, came courtesy of Career Technical Education Director Tami Truax’s farm, and others belonged to students.
While no petting was allowed due to COVID guidelines, the drive-thru experience was a cause for celebration for many of the FFA members, who haven’t seen each other in person for months. Their meetings have been confined to Zoom for the most part, said chapter president Sara Drumonde.
“We haven’t been able to see each other in person or interact with animals as much as we usually do, so this is really exciting for us,” she said. “This is a great way for everyone to see what FFA is all about.”
Pitman FFA usually hosts a petting zoo in the campus quad each year during National FFA Week, but the chapter decided to get creative this year as soon as they realized the annual event wouldn’t be a possibility. They get creative during their virtual meetings, too, participating in a scavenger hunt, Super Bowl cook off and Halloween pumpkin carving contest this school year — virtually, of course.
“The petting zoo would help us make ourselves known on campus and I really think it made an impact because FFA is kind of hidden away, since a lot of what we do is on the weekends,” chapter reporter Bella Kern said. “Not having school has put a damper on that and now I think we’re kind of forgotten. Even though it’s a drive-thru, this is still helping showcase what we do and that FFA is a big part of Pitman.”
Both Kern and Drumonde hoped that children in the cars passing through will be inspired to take an agriculture-related course in the future, or even participate in FFA. At each station of the drive-thru, students were on hand with the animal to answer questions and lend their expertise.
Kern met each child — and parent — with a smile, watching their eyes light up with excitement when she shared with them that Honey the miniature horse was 20 years old despite her small stature.
“It feels good to know that these little kids had something to look forward to. Seeing the kids’ smiles brings me happiness, and seeing the community happy brings our chapter happiness,” Kern said. “When we were over at sheep, I made sure to tell them that the sheep’s wool makes their clothes. I feel like this will help broaden their horizons and show them that all of the world is impacted by ag.”