As a member of a team of people who helped organize and coordinate an agriculture talk given by Dr. Temple Grandin in late October at Beekmantown High School, I set up a Miner Institute display along with other displays showcasing student projects and the other partners who had collaborated on the event. A young woman holding a Miner Institute annual report caught my eye and I struck up a conversation with her. She indicated that she was a student at UVM and had traveled from Burlington to see Dr. Grandin. She told me that Dr. Grandin’s story had inspired her to study wildlife and fisheries biology in college. She choked back tears, as did I, as she told me that as an autistic woman Dr. Grandin has been an idol to her.
Dr. Grandin is a world-renowned autism advocate, best-selling author, animal welfare and behavior expert and a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She is well known for relating her personal experience as someone with autism to provide an interesting perspective on how thinking differently can provide opportunities. She has been able to utilize her specialized thinking to help her better understand animal behavior and has designed livestock handling facilities that are used widely around the globe because they are less stressful for animals.
Dr. Grandin arrived on a Tuesday evening. She travels with two assistants who also take care of book sales for her. Dr. Grandin stayed at the Lundy Guest House at Miner Institute. Her day on Wednesday included an autism talk at the Rainbow Banquet Hall with 900 people followed by lunch and a book signing. She then came for a quick tour of Miner Institute’s barns before heading to dinner with folks from the Autism Alliance of Northeastern NY – who funded her trip to the North Country – followed by the evening agriculture-focused talk at Beekmantown High School. On Thursday morning before heading to Rhode Island for her next event, Dr. Grandin visited with some Miner Institute staff, local farmers, and animal science students from Vermont Technical College and the University of Vermont.
I worked with Sara Bull from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County; Anja Bouchard from the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System; and Veronique Krohn, Agricultural Education Teacher & FFA Advisor at Beekmantown High School. We worked on the logistics and details for the talk at Beekmantown High School, although Anja also coordinated travel plans and scheduling with Dr. Grandin’s team.
Veronique and the entire Beekmantown Central School community – students and faculty alike – pulled out all the stops to showcase their school and their programs. It was truly incredible to see such teamwork and camaraderie on display as everything came together for a really great event.
"Many of my students were completely blown away by the experience. They said they couldn't believe how well spoken she was and that she seemed very grounded and true to her roots. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that they will remember for years to come," Veronique said adding that $300 was raised to benefit the FFA program at Beekmantown through the sale of raffle tickets at the event.
When I first sat down in fall 2017 to start discussing plans to bring Dr. Grandin to the North Country, I was excited to be a part of making it happen. I had no idea that I was embarking on something that would be truly transformative.
- Rachel Dutil