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Animal Care

The farm animals at Frying Pan Farm Park are feeling extra healthy these days. They're getting extra vet attention thanks to a local college.

Frying Pan's animals are part of a new partnership between the park and Sanford Brown College in McLean, another successful harvest in Frying Pan's long history of sowing agricultural education and animal husbandry.

How does it work?

Sanford Brown's Veterinary Technician (Vet Tech) students come to the park with their instructors to get hands-on experience working with farm animals. Among the instructors are a licensed veterinarian and a veterinarian technologist.

The two-part field trips include a presentation from Frying Pan Farm Manager Paul Nicholson and hands-on work with the animals. New classes get a basic introduction to the different farm animal species and their needs, such as food, shelter, hygiene and routine medical care. The Vet Tech students learn how to safely approach the different animals and perform basic visual and tactile examinations while conducting normal care, such as picking hooves and grooming. As they progress through their curriculum, the students get more detailed information on animal health issues and expand their medical examinations to pregnancy checks and drawing blood for health screenings.

Who benefits?

This is a good deal for the animals, the students and the farm staff. The extra examinations help keep the animals in tip-top health. Imagine if your insurance company paid for you to have a physical three or four times each year instead of annually. For the students, who also have classroom studies as well as lab work and hands-on work with dogs and cats, working with farm animals is a requirement for their degree. Frying Pan's friendly animals help fulfill that requirement in a safe, controlled environment. Animals on commercial farms have limited human interaction and can be far less cooperative during a medical examination. Consider the logistics of trying to take the temperature of a 1,800-pound cow.

KidwellFrying Pan has farm hands helping Nicholson and the students work with the animals, so staff is learning from the class lectures as well, and that helps in the daily running of the farm.

Dr. Rose A. Fiskett arrived at Sanford Brown College in February of 2011 to develop a new Associates in Applied Science degree for Veterinarian Technicians. She needed farm animals for her students in the program. A web search led her to Frying Pan Farm Park, and after discussions with Farm Manager Paul Nicholson and Park Manager Tawny Hammond, the formal process of establishing a partnership began. Many meetings later, the Fairfax County Park Authority Board and the Founders, Benefactors, Supervisors and Friends of Frying Pan Board approved the project. Sanford Brown's first Vet Tech class started in June of 2011, and students made their first Frying Pan field trip last August.

Connecting to history

Frying Pan and the surrounding Floris community have a long history of moving information and experience through generations. Information passed from parent to child on family farms, and organizations such as the Grange, Future Farmers of America and 4-H added structure to the learning process. In 1920, the Floris School, which served the community for more than 80 years, was expanded to include a four-year high school that specialized in farm education. The Floris Vocational Technical High School for Agriculture drew students as magnet schools do today. Some students who lived too far away to commute would board with local farmers, and many Floris graduates went on to higher degrees in agriculture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, now known as Virginia Tech.

The partnership between Frying Pan Farm Park and Sanford Brown College is just the next step in this continuing story of agricultural education and history.

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