The Right Angle on Communities
By: Dr. Kimberly Vonnahme
I was out at Harvest Hope Farm late one evening to close up the barn doors when I spied five of our “teenager” lambs frolicking just outside the fence within feet from the main pen where they should have been. They were having fun playing under the trees. I quietly walked closer to them and then yelled “Hey, what are you doing?!”. Heads quickly turned to see what the danger was, and 4 lambs immediately bolted and ducked under a gate to get back into the main pen. But there was one that couldn’t figure out how to get back through the fence—back to safety where his buddies now were. I stood there and watched him frantically try to find a loose area in the fence. His buddies were frantically bleating at him to hurry. And after a few minutes he was successful. I smirked as I walked back towards to barn to close the doors for safety—the lambs were successful in helping me get all the lambs back in the pen for the night.
Our livestock are gregarious animals, meaning they like to be in groups. There is safety in groups for many things: to alert the group of impending danger (or an upset caregiver), to protect and teach their young, to keep warm during colder winter nights, to groom each other, and to work together to obtain food or hunt. We have different names for our animal groups: a group of sheep is called a flock; a group of pigs is called a herd (or a drove); and a group of chickens is called a flock (or a brood). We have names for all sorts of animals: a herd (or drove) of cattle, a gaggle of geese, a mischief of mice, a murder of crows, a pack of dogs/wolves, a school of fish, a team of horses, a pride of lions, a colony of prairie dogs, and my favorite: an embarrassment of pandas! (I always thought a group of pandas was adorable—they have nothing to be embarrassed about). Now, there are some animals that prefer the solo life, but they are fewer in number compared to those that prefer companionship: moose, jaguars, bears, skunks, and sloths just to name a few.
Living as a group sure has its benefits, particularly when you are a farm animal. But as I observe the behaviors of our animals on the farm, I reflect on what it is to be a member of the “Harvest Hope Herd”: we are part of a community that protects others from danger (e.g., dangers of hunger, loneliness, loss). We have programs that teach our children that they have unique gifts that are so important for our community, and we hope that the services we offer provide a way to keep ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually warm.
Keep Harvest Hope Farm in your prayers as we prepare for another harvest this fall. And thank you for being part of our Herd!