Sheep as farmworkers are media darlings.
When I first heard that UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Morgan Doran would be training sheep to clean up weeds in vineyards, I knew it would be a great story. I personally enjoyed visiting Doran and his cooperators in the study at the beautiful UC Hopland Research and Extension Center, getting the details of the research and writing a piece for the UC Web site and to share with the media.
I have also enjoyed what the media have done with the story. The Central Valley Business Times led their article, published June 2:
"Who knew? It turns out that sheep can be trained to be vineyard workers, say scientists at the University of California’s Hopland Research and Extension Center, south of Ukiah."
Author Joanne Marshall, writing for the June 24 edition of Farm news for New Zealand farmers, compared Doran's research to the effects of drinking too much:
"Whoever said sheep were stupid should think again. If you've had a big night out, drunk too much alcohol and had a terrible hangover do you decide to never go out drinking again? The answer is usually NO. But if you happen to be a sheep, you'll probably know better than to inflict pain and suffering on yourself a second time."
M. S. Enkoji of the Sacramento Bee opened his story, which was printed in the paper last Saturday, like a classified ad:
"Wanted: Hungry sheep, a year old, with limited dining experience, otherwise healthy. Work in the state's most breathtaking countryside."
Perhaps this experience shows reporters can't resist a story with which they can have some fun.
Sheep at the Hopland Research and Extension Center.