Upsala FFA petting zoo draws more than 300 visitors
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 06/14/2012 2:57 PM
UPSALA, Minn. — A town recreation building with horseshoe pits was taken over by the Upsala FFA.
Makeshift pens and sawdust bedding provided the perfect spot for livestock as FFAers guided more than 325 visitors through their petting zoo.
Gretchen Schleper, the ag instructor at Upsala High School and the FFA adviser, was pleased with turnout. Visitors saw a cow, miniature donkey, llama, two horses, lambs, rabbits, pigs, ducks, chickens and goats.
A list of fun facts about the animals was attached to each pen. Visitors learned that donkeys use their ears to communicate and that ducks have no nerves or blood vessels in their feet.
The FFAers answered questions about what the animals ate and how much they ate.
The petting zoo has become an annual FFA affair. If chapter members can't provide an animal, local producers help out, Schleper said. The miniature donkey belonged to Keith Ripplinger's cousin. He was able to borrow it.
The Elmdale Creamery provided milk for the youngsters. Amy Swanson, the creamery's general manager, said the event is great because youngsters see animals up close.
Schleper said many adults also benefit from increased awareness about agriculture.
"It used to be that, 10 years ago, these events were a way for young children to learn about livestock," she said. "But I have seen that, over the last three to four years, there are as many adults asking questions."
The event is also a recruitment tool, Schleper said, because students learn more about FFA.