My name is Josephine Montminy, and I am a student in the Green Tech Academy program at Clint Small, Jr. Middle School. I started the program when I was in sixth grade because I wanted to learn more about the environment, and over the past three years, I’ve taken a sequence of classes available nowhere else in the state of Texas: Native Plants and Animals; The World Outside (an introduction to ecosystems and sustainability); Nature Tech (junior permaculture design); Green Growing (an introduction to horticulture); Environmental Ethics; and Independent Study (Capstone Project). Soon, I will earn Green Certification for completing these classes, but the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that everything is connected—that our own actions greatly affect the balance of environmental systems.
Most people are aware of basic strategies for becoming a better steward of the Earth— recycling, composting, and reducing energy and water use. But my Independent Study class has allowed me to focus on a specific environmental problem and design a sustainable solution. My partner, Madelyn, and I are both interested in farm animals, so we started researching which animals might be the best choice for our campus ecosystem. Our school tried to keep two Boer goats last year, but they proved to be too large for the students to handle, and they produced nothing that would cover the expense of keeping them. They’re now living the good life on a big ranch. Because dairy goats could provide the raw materials for a sustainable, student-managed business while feeding mostly on campus vegetation, we decided they were the best choice.
Our research led us to Nigerian Dwarf goats, because they’re known for producing high-quality milk and they’d be easier for students to handle. Also, they could produce manure for our compost and we could make soap from their rich milk (FDA regulations prohibit us from selling the milk or making food products from it). Fortunately, a Craigslist ad caught our eye and we found three goats just outside of Austin. We brought them to school in early September 2015, and so far, Vea, Fern and Nova have been great additions to the campus. Many of the sixth and seventh graders actually run to their Green classes so they can be the first to walk the goats.
A couple of months after we got the goats, Madelyn and I noticed that Vea’s belly was getting much bigger than the other two. We thought it was because she was eating more than them. As the winter break came, my family decided to keep the goats at our house until school started again in January. My neighbor came over and said that Vea was pregnant! We were very shocked.
Madelyn and I spoke with the people we bought the goats from, and they said it was possible that Vea could be pregnant. Once we knew for certain that Vea would be giving birth, my teachers and I agreed that we could care for her better at my house. I spoke with friends and family about their experiences, and we did a lot of research on how to take care of pregnant goats. Vea’s belly kept getting bigger by the day, but we could only estimate her due date based on the average length of gestation for Nigerian Dwarfs (approximately 150 days) and the time she had been with us. Vea ended up giving birth to a single kid on February 4, 2016. Kale weighed 3 pounds at birth and had a black and silver coat. We took Vea and Kale back to school at the beginning of April and they are both doing well. We sell the soap we make from the goat milk at school events, but there isn’t much milk right now since only one of the goats is lactating.
Being a part of the Green Tech Academy has not only widened my interests about our Earth, but I’ve learned how to personally change our local environment for the greater good.
Josephine Montminy is a student in the Green Tech Academy program at Clint Small, Jr. Middle School. She enjoys the outdoors and her chickens, and she loves to spend her free time reading.