The Sights and Sounds of Farm Life on Display at Alvirne Farm Day

May 13, 2016


by Jay Hobson

The barn at Alvirne High School’s farm was filled with visitors learning about farm life from students in the school’s agricultural program.  The voices of students and visitors were punctuated with the bleating of sheep and the deep lowing of cows – something the average city dweller or suburbanite rarely hears.

The Farm Day, held last Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., offered dairy tours, greenhouse tours and sales, wool spinning, draft horse plowing, and much more.

Event coordinator Suzanne Roark said that the Alvirne agricultural program is one of the few if not the only one left in the state.

A member of 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands and Health) Elizabeth Bliss, 11, and her cousin Kyleigh Richards, 10, had a Romney ewe with her two lambs and explained the breed to interested visitors.

“I’m in 4-H and I raise sheep and she just had her babies four months ago.  Alvirne doesn’t have sheep so I brought mine.  This breed is called Romney and they have really soft wool which they are known for and sometimes their meat,” Bliss said.

Sophomores Zophia Harrington, 17, and Amanda Oslizlo, 16, of the Alvirne Culinary Arts program demonstrated various cheeses that are made from the milk produced by Alvirne’s 14 milking cows.

“I plan on becoming a chef someday and taking the culinary class is the best class I’ve taken all year.  You’re doing something you love and you’re getting credit for it,” Harrington said.

She said that she plans on going to a culinary school after high school and is leaning toward becoming a baker.

Ozlizlo agreed, “I love doing something that I love to do and that makes people happy.”

Harrington said that the milk is picked up and brought to Cabot and made into the cheeses that were on display and available for sampling.

Christine Peters was spinning wool into yarn with a spinning wheel while Vicki Ciofrone sat brushing an Angora rabbit and harvesting the fur into a container.  Both women are from the Cluck and Baa Farm in Hollis.

“I didn’t like the yarn that I was seeing at the store, so I decided to start spinning my own yarn and now I use the Angora rabbit too.  I send it to be washed and carded and then we spin it into something we can spin into yarn,” Ciofrone said.

Ciofrone’s daughter Rose, 11, was spinning Angora wool into yarn on a small spinning wheel as we spoke.

Steve Normanton has a farm in Litchfield where he raises about 50 mixed breed beef cattle, 600 hens, some pigs and other animals.

Originally from South Africa, Normanton has brought to the U.S. his skills as a former farmer and safari guide on his farm.

“We don’t use herbicides or pesticides.  When the grass is too long we rotate in the cattle, which cuts the grass for the chickens because they like grass shorter and then the pigs come in and root around digging up the soil and working the chicken manure into it, which helps it grow better,” Normanton said.

Out in the barn, Samantha Hooker, 16, and Holstein cow Daphne, 4, and Taylor Torre, 17, and Holstein heifer Judy, 2, and were explaining what the life of a dairy cow is like.

“We milk the cows here at the school barn with a milking machine in the milking parlor and within a day or two the Agramark truck comes to pick up the milk.  The cows are milked twice a day at around four o’clock in the morning and again around five in the afternoon,” Hooker said.

Torre is in the Veterinary Science program and hopes to work with larger animals in her career.

“Judy is one of the youngest cows we have, she’s about two to two and a half years old, and she’s still a heifer.  A heifer is a cow that hasn’t given birth yet, but we are waiting to breed her and when she does she’ll produce more milk,” Torre explained.

Torre said that working with the animals is “very eye opening.”

“The cows (have) a mind of their own, so as you interact you build a bond with them,” Torre said.

Those who took the time to come and see farm life during Farm Day were well rewarded with information and a chance to see and touch animals that provide people with so much.