LISBON A Madrid-Waddington Central School graduate is hoping to pursue a career doctoring farm animals the old-fashioned way.
Sierra R. Knight hopes to become a licensed veterinarian specializing in organic livestock.
Ms. Knight said she was inspired to pursue her chosen career because it can be challenging to find veterinarians who are trained to treat livestock without the use of antibiotics or other modern drugs.
After obtaining the proper education, I would like to work with a vet with experience dealing with local organic farms, Ms. Knight said.
When youre treating livestock organically, there are certain medications you cant give to livestock. I would like to learn more about the different kinds of all-natural medicines and different techniques to provide health care for livestock, she explained.
In the last decade, organic farming has grown in popularity.
There were about 3,350 organic livestock farms in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The U.S. had 14,540 organic farms of all kinds in 2007, up more than 20 percent from 2002.
The daughter of dairy farmer Bradley Knight, owner of Meadow View Farm, Ms. Knight said her family steered its farm toward organic practices in 2003.
Ms. Knight said her experience can help other organic farmers.
It took the farm three years to turn organic, Ms. Knight said. Organic basically means you cant use chemicals in feeds, medicine or fertilizer. Many farmers use old-school manure. We weed the fields, pesticide-free.
She said that while farming organically is the healthier and safer option, it isnt always easy.
My father cultivates using horses. A rake pulls up the weeds because we cant use spray, but animals can pick up the seeds. So we only grow enough crops to feed cows, but its worth it to get rid of some of the chemicals in the environment.
She said chemical-free practices result in a better product.
If we keep these chemicals out of the cows, that in turn keeps the chemicals out of the milk and then the milk that comes out of the store is healthier for you, she said.
While milking cows and feeding the horses on her farm, Ms. Knight discovered her love of animals.
I have lived on a farm my whole life, said the 18-year-old. Ive been in contact with lots of animals and, ever since I can remember, I really like being around animals. I also really like medical shows. So I decided to combine these things and become a vet.
On Thursday, Ms. Knight was awarded a $2,500 scholarship from Horizon Organic Producer Education. She was one of three applicants nationwide who were chosen based on their commitment to organic agriculture.
Ms. Knight plans to pursue a pre-veterinary program and a minor in biology at St. Lawrence University, Canton, in the fall.
I want to own a vet office one day, she said.
St. Lawrence University also awarded Ms. Knight the Augsbury scholarship, which offers her $25,000 a year for four years.
She said studying at St. Lawrence will give her opportunities other colleges would not.
I plan to hopefully be taking art classes in college, Ms. Knight said.
That is why I wanted to study at a liberal arts college, so I can study a couple of other subjects that interest me while becoming a vet and studying medical biology.
She said choosing her field of study was easy.
Ive wanted to be a vet ever since I can remember, she said. I loved growing up on a farm. It started out just playing outside. As I grew up, I would milk the cows, do chores and field work and eventually run the tractor. It has benefited me greatly. Ive learned responsibility and hard work, and it has led me to my dream.