Katie Ribbens—Staff Writer
Some colleges have a puppy day before finals week to help students cope with stress. Dordt University fills the campus with farm animals instead.
Green posters hung around Dordt’s campus advertising Ag Day, an event that had not run in two years due to COVID-19. On April 23, the unusual sounds of bleating, clucking, quacking, mooing, and whinnying filled the campus. This event allowed students outside of the agriculture department to walk a mile in these students’ shoes–or boots.
Community members and students alike joined in on the fun. Parents held the hands of bouncing children and carefully navigated strollers through the straw bales scattered around the parking lot. Students gathered around animal pens and cuddled with rabbits. Demonstration tables explaining the intricacies of farming sat beside large tractors at the base of the clock tower.
Pulled pork sandwiches were served as people flocked toward the main exhibits; cardboard cutouts and tractors had nothing on the living, breathing, adorable animals. Prospective Dordt students enjoyed a special experience on their visit day. They placed their welcome folders onto straw bales, forgotten, as they eagerly gathered baby rabbits to their chests.
For once, the farm smell wafting around all corners of Sioux Center originated from Dordt’s campus. Whiffs clung to the clothes of students as they scampered to class after attending Ag Day—or skipped altogether.
The animals are all owned by the community: cows, goats, pigs, sheep, horses, donkeys, chickens, a duck, rabbits, and one llama.
“I think it’s really cool that they’re so invested in it,” Allison Meyer, a freshman animal science major, said.
She aided other members of the pre-vet club with the horse station. The club members painted equine anatomy onto the horse’s speckled gray fur. A few children, seeing the black paint used for the horse’s skeletal system, called the creature a zebra. Another youngster decided the red and blue paint depicting veins and arteries meant the animal was an American horse.
Meyer is currently raising a calf as part of her animal science class. In fact, the calves at the event are the responsibilities of some of her classmate’s. The cows found themselves in an unfortunate placement beside the Commons, the smell of burgers filling their nostrils.
For Bianca van Ginkel, a sophomore nursing major, the event brought back familiar sights and smells from home. Although she is not pursuing a career in agriculture, she has owned many of the species shown at Ag Day.
“Sioux Center, really, is such a farming town,” van Ginkel said.
Like many other students, van Ginkel found the presence of animals therapeutic. She felt especially connected to one of the kids. Not a human kid, but one of the four-legged and cloven-hooved variety. Van Ginkel would have gladly snuck the goat into her dorm, though it would be a little big to sneak away. The students helping at the rabbit station felt more concerned over their furry charges disappearing. The tiny balls of fluff could easily be snuck inside jacket pockets.
Despite concerns, all animals remained accounted for at the end of the day, and the event cleared as quickly as it popped up. Only a few pieces of straw remained a few hours later, scattered by the wind across the parking lot rapidly filling up with cars.vv