SWANTON — Franklin Central School students were going to visit Missisquoi Valley Union (MVU)’s agricultural education department to learn about sugaring on Thursday. But a sudden shift in weather brought something even more sweet: a chance to meet the animals.

Students aged three to six visited MVU’s James F. Messier Agriculture Education Center, the on-campus home of the school’s agricultural program.

The Messier Center is also home to a variety of barnyard staples, including cows, pigs, goats, rabbits and even some fish.

The Franklin students visited these barnyard critters in two shifts on Thursday, one at 8:30 a.m., the other at 12 p.m.

The Messenger photographed the 12 p.m. visit, where students pet the cows, fed the goats and baited the fish with tiny fingertips.

A farm-to-table grant funded the excursion, which teachers said was as simple as calling up the center’s namesake, 52-year instructor James Messier, and asking if they could visit.

James Messier

MVU teacher James Messier hosts a visit from Franklin Elementary students on Thursday.

“We’re always open,” Messier said.

The center’s students raised the animals themselves, personally monitoring their feed and vaccines.

Thursday, Franklin Central students gathered around a baby goat. The Messier Center now has the capability to broadcast baby births internationally via a webcam setup.

Messier said the program’s web feed has already attracted viewers in the Netherlands and Australia, among others.

For more photos of cute animals and cuter kids, see your weekend Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.