Rutgers farm helps students learn valuable skills
Students passing through the Cook and Douglass campuses will likely pass by the farms located on campus.
The Hort Farm offers students a rare opportunity to learn about animals and how they function. Students may benefit more from studying the animals in person, rather than through a textbook or online articles, said research farm supervisor Joanne Powell.
“(The farm) gives our students that are interested in agriculture and in animal science and particularly pre-veterinary medicine the opportunity to get really valuable, hands-on experience when working with those animals,” she said.
Students usually tend to be more experienced and work more efficiently in these fields, after their time on the farm, Powell said.
Although some animals may seem intimidating, Powell said most of them are easy to love and get attached to.
“The cows in particular, they love to get scratched. They act like giant dogs sometimes. The horses ... are a little more aloof," Powell said. "Students are welcome to walk through, pet the animals, ask questions, do whatever they pretty much want."
There are more than 150 animals on the farm, Powell said. Although the farm animals are widely available to be visited, some students have other priorities that come first.
“I’ve seen the animals before, but not up close. I see horses there. That’s all I’ve seen. I’m sure there’s more, I mean honestly if I had free time, I’d probably visit them. But I’m always so busy, so I don’t visit them,” said Shahzad Khan, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
More students should visit the farm if they feel homesick and miss their pets, said Eric Jimenez, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year. Although a pig is not the same as a dog or cat, it can have the same comfort value, he said.
“Even if they’re not really doing the work themselves, it shows them that these animals are here and I think it makes them feel like they’re right back at home,” Jimenez said.
Taking care of the animals is a positive aspect, but getting too attached to the animals can sometimes be an issue for farm workers, Jimenez said.
“I don’t mean to sound callous or anything, but if you’re going to be involved — and we do have an increasing number of students that want to go into animal production, where they are farmers and raising animals — it’s part of it,” Powell said.
There is a step-by-step plan laid out for the animals, he said.
“Our primary focus is first and foremost on education," Powell said. "Secondly, we have to support any of our faculty members that are doing research. So once we meet those two goals or aims of our program, part of animal agriculture is that the animals are sold.
Khan, being both a vegan and an animal lover, said she hopes the research in no way harms the animals on the farm.
“I think whether it’s inhumane or not to have them here depends on the way you treat them. If you’re being cruel to them, then it’s obviously not humane. But if you’re not doing anything wrong with them, then that’s fine,” Khan said.
The pigs are often sold to farmers who raise them for their own needs, or they are killed and sold on campus by Rutgers officials as well, Powell said.
Jimenez said he has no problem with the meat of the animals on the farm being eaten at Rutgers.
“It would raise awareness for animals being killed and used for meat. A lot of students don’t really know where it comes from. It’s just going to be the animals dying for food and if it’s done here, then it really shows students that it’s really happening, it’s really going on,” he said.
Powell's main goal is for the farm and programs associated with it to provide both a good source of education and teach the students involved vital work skills.
“I hope that we accomplish what we set out to do. And that is to teach our students about animals," Powell said. "I want them to learn, in addition, that they need to learn that it’s not okay to badmouth one of your colleagues. They need to leave here with some life lessons."
Nicole Osztrogonacz is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in English. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. Find her on Twitter @nikki_osz for more.