Waking up before the sun rises near the quiet pastures that surround Cal Poly’s sheep and goat unit, two students emerge from their house and head towards the barn down the road. They have set out to do the familiar task that has become a part of their morning routine this quarter: feeding newborn lambs.
Animal science sophomore Georgia Jellen and animal science junior Julia Hanna are among about 30 other students who live in Cal Poly’s agriculture housing units. A part of University Housing, agriculture housing consists of house-like units located at the many different agricultural production units on campus, such as the beef, equine and poultry units.
The units are “isolated in a good way,” according to Jellen.
“It’s just really quiet,” Jellen said. “You can go out for a walk at night and look at the stars and the only thing you hear is frogs and some sheep.”
Jellen and Hanna are employed as sheep and goat technicians, living in clapboard houses at the sheep unit with their
Unlike residence halls or on-campus apartments, students living in agriculture housing must be employed at an agricultural production unit to qualify for residency. Student-residents also receive discounted housing, making agriculture housing an attractive option to many.
But price is not the only appealing aspect of agriculture housing. Student residents also receive a unique hands-on experience through the hours they spend working and living near the livestock they tend to.
“Being able to live on site makes [students] more attentive to things,” Sheep Center Supervisor and animal science professor Elizabeth Reynolds said. “They can see if the animals get out of the fence, they can hear if an animal is crying in the barn.”
Winter quarter is the most demanding season of the year because it is the time when sheep and goats give birth, according to Jellen and Hanna.
“[The sheep] are getting the most food, they’re moving the most often, you’re going out every day to check them twice a day,” Hanna said. “But it makes it worth it because you get all the cute babies, so that’s how you manage all
Unlike student-employees who do not live in agriculture housing, students who are residents must be on call at all times. But it is during these times that students are thrown into unexpected situations, which often result in learning experiences.
Jellen recalled a recent incident where a ewe had prolapsed during labor and the students had to assist a veterinarian to save it.
“I want to be a vet and these are the things that many of the students here, even the animal science majors, don’t get experience with just because they’re not out often enough to see things like this happen,” Jellen said.
Outside of work, students said living in a farm setting provides them with essential peace and quiet when studying or relaxing. A classroom at the poultry unit serves as a “mini library,” Jellen said. Jellen does not spend much time on campus, and said she enjoys being away from the busyness of it all.
Student residents often visit and hang out with students from other units, sometimes gathering around the fire pit together, according to Jellen and Hanna.