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High school students get a taste of farm life with Goatlandia’s LEAP program

The LEAP program is happening this year at the Sebastopol location of Goatlandia. LEAP (leaders for ethics, animals and the planet) is a program that highschoolers can join to get hands on experience with farm animals and learn about climate change, human rights, animal rights, food systems, animal care and environmental stewardship. They became a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit in spring of 2022.

Danielle Hanosh started the LEAP program under a different name in 2017 at her Blackberry Creek Farm Animal Sanctuary in Colfax as an alternative to programs like FFA or 4-H. In a program like 4-H, students take care of an animal but then the animal is sent to slaughter.

After starting the program, Blackberry Creek Sanctuary got together with Jameson Humane Sanctuary in Napa and Rancho Compasión in Nicasio and renamed their program LEAP and started creating their own curriculum, according to Hanosh.

They started a pilot program at their three sanctuaries and then at six northern California sanctuaries and now they have programs across the country. “We create the classroom curriculum and also the hands-on workshop unit and then each sanctuary recruits students from their area and the kids come learn the curriculum, do the hands on portion at each of the individual sanctuaries,” stated Hanosh.

The LEAP program is happening the second Saturday each month starting in October at Goatlandia in Sebastopol for a five-hour class. Each month is something different. October is the introduction and students explore ethics and talk about leadership, discussing about how we are influenced by our families and the cultures we grew up in. In November they will be talking about climate anxiety and how to take action as a young person for climate change. In December they are talking about farm animals’ natural behaviors and how sanctuaries can provide an environment for that, according to Hanosh.

On the students’ break, “every sanctuary, including Goatlandia, will cook a vegan meal with the kids and teach them how to cook plant-based food and Goatlandia is especially good at that because they have Goatlandia kitchen, so they have a whole vegan catering company,” stated Hanosh.

The kids will also have a hands-on workshop that varies every month like hands-on animal care such as a chicken care class, cooking workshops where kids can learn more about plant-based cooking like baking or holiday meals and a native species class where they learn things like how to plant native plants in their own backyard to attract pollinators, explained Hanosh.

LEAP also discusses environmental issues on a larger scale like how animal agriculture in general is harmful to the planet in a multitude of ways. “Some of the kids, for example, they may come not realizing the amount of water that it takes to produce one pound of beef. It’s astronomical compared to plant-based food,” said Hanosh. “We also talk about, for example, the regenerative farming practices that are truly sustainable and good for the planet versus some of what’s being done in the rainforest.”

“We want to educate the kids about the connection between animals that we traditionally see as food and we traditionally farm, and the impacts of that system on human health, the natural environment and climate change, and the animals themselves,” stated Hanosh. “We’re all about promoting compassion to animals and also a sustainable lifestyle and having the kids make their own decisions of what their ethics will be as they grow up having had all of that information presented to them.”

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