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Hands-on ag learning at Hampton High School

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 10:05 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 15, 2021 at 11:15 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Students are raising beef cattle just outside the Hampton high school building, and it’s giving them an appreciation for what cattle producers do every day.

Students and teachers call their cows the “Hawk Herd or the “Hampton Herd”. “Basically what started a few years ago based on a student survey was students wanted to learn more about animals, animal science, and things like that,” Ag teacher Joel Miller said. Just west of the Hampton High football field, you’ll find a school project that’s been a few years in the making. “We have on campus five head of cows,” Miller said. “Three steers, and then two heifers. We also have a few chickens. A year ago we had just a few chickens and a cow-calf pair, but now we’ve expanded. We’ve actually purchased the animals, and we own them as part of our FFA chapter.”

The herd is giving agriculture students a chance to experience real-world cattle production. “We are making more of the management decisions as we go forward, and when I say we, I’m turning a lot of that over to the students so they can learn some of those things,” Miller said. “Students learn about income and expenses, are we going to make a profit, animal welfare, and things like that.”

Students like sophomore Brooke Lubke get to feed the cattle, and the students provide them with protein, minerals, hay and corn. “I did not grow up on a farm,” Lubke said. “I’ve never experienced cattle, or really chickens at all, so it’s a totally different experience for me. But I think it’s definitely taught me responsibility, having a schedule, and what it’s like to get up on the weekends and feed (the cattle).”

Freshman Shae Kingery says caring for these animals is also all about teamwork. “I’m learning how to work with other people to help keep a project going,” Kingery said. “I’ve never really been involved in something this big and this important to a school, that I’ve had to work with other people to keep it going.”

With this program, students get an appreciation for the state’s number one industry: beef. “It really gives you a realization of what goes on around our state and all of the other states, and how lucky we are to have that experience here,” Hampton High School junior Kylie Mersch said.

The school has a beef booster program, where locally produced beef is used in the school lunch menus. One goal is to incorporate beef produced from the Hampton Herd into the lunch program as well. That, too, will be a great chance for learning. “Just to say you had a hand, or a part, in the growing of that beef, and then it’s going back into our school lunch program, I think that’s an extremely valuable lesson,” Hampton High School principal Brad Feik said.

Students say the project is work, but also fun. “It is funny when the chickens decide they want to attack when you open the gate,” Mersch said. And, the project just might get someone interested in agriculture as a career. “At some point we are going to need to replace some of those farmers and people that operate feedlots and animal operations,” Miller said. “Giving the students the real-life hands on experience now should help fill some of those gaps as we move forward.”

This project wouldn’t be possible without teamwork from the community. “Support from the community has been fantastic,” Feik said. “Our kids have been amazing, jumping in and really going with this project, and there are a lot of great people here in Hampton. I’m proud to be a Hampton Hawk.”

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