The Future Farmers of America (FFA) program at Mulrennan Middle School has some new members who are helping spread a love for agriculture around the area. Two Weathered Nigerian Dwarf goats were donated to the program by a local farm last month and not only are the students learning as they help them grow, the team also has plans to bring the goats into the community as therapy animals.

Mulrennan Agriscience Teacher and FFA Advisor Kallee Cook has been working with the program since 2016 and feels that the goats are a great addition.

“At Mulrennan we have had market pigs and steers that the students get attached to and then have to say goodbye after they have attached and watched them grow into loving creatures,” said Cook. “The goats have been amazing because we get the opportunity to treat them as a pet and continue to watch them grow.”

The goats, Aspen and Sparta, were born in December at Fallen Oaks Farm in Valrico. Owner Shelley Fehrenbacher donated them to the program where two of her daughters have been members.

“We raised the goats in a crib in our living room,” said Fehrenbacher. “After seeing so many people at schools and our farm events connect with our goats, I started researching and talking with psychologists about their fascinating use as therapy animals.”

Cook feels the impact of the goats on her students already.

“They have taught the students a lot,” she said. “Not only about proper handling and feed responsibility, but through good character. They are very loving and almost serve as an open ear for the students to just sit with and calm down. We have several special needs and challenged students that come to see the goats just to get away from their daily struggle. They help them in a way nobody can see.”

The next step for the goats is to introduce them to the community.

“We would like the goats to come and meet you,” said Cook. “We want to broaden our program to come into local schools and meet children with special needs and challenges so that everyone can see the good these guys do for us as humans.”

One hundred and sixty students in sixth through eighth grade are part of the agriscience program at Mulrennan, which is offered as elective.

To learn more about the program or to arrange a tour or classroom visit to meet the goats, call the school at 651-2100.

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.