Educating kids about agriculture

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 10:40 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - What looks like an old-fashioned cookout, is really an effort by local producers to teach kids about where their food comes from. At Tri-County Public Schools, it’s called “Farm to Fork”.

“It’s an organization we started to get fresh produce into the school, and to give the kids a taste of locally raised meat,” Farm to Fork member Kirk Holtmeier said. Holtmeier says the meat is donated by local farmers. Those farmers can often be found grilling the meat, too. The goal is to get fresh ag products on the lunch menu. “We try to grill once a month,” Holtmeier said. “We’ve been grilling for about a year and a half now once a month weather permitting. We try to make that a goal, so the kids have something to look forward to.”

Administrators at Tri-County see the benefits showing kids where their food comes from. When it’s Farm to Fork day, lessons about agriculture are incorporated into the entire school day. “We do activities and exercises to show them exactly where the meat comes from, the process it goes through to get to their plate,” Principal Ryan Clark said. “It’s not just about grilling the food, it’s about educating the students on where the products come from, all that’s involved with it.”

“A couple of activities they are doing today is they are guessing the weight of a hog, and then we had a coloring contest for first graders,” FFA Advisor Dave Barnard said. “Next month we’ll do something else.” This program may also get kids to start thinking about future careers. “It exposes them to a lot of opportunities when they leave Tri-County,” Clark said.

In addition to the idea of showing kids how their food goes from the farm to the plate, the Farm to Fork day has also inspired kids with related projects. Student Trevor Johnson was involved in building a grill to cook on. “We had a propane tank that was sitting on one of our farms, and we cut it in half and made it,” Johnson said. It’s an ingenious idea, and just another example of how Farm to Fork is something that has a positive impact on the entire school. “I think it’s a good thing cause ag is a big part of our community,” Johnson said. “You look in all four directions around us we have corn fields, and it’s a good way to get everybody involved.”

The school FFA advisor says this event teaches valuable lessons. “Most of our kids at school are one, two and maybe three generations removed from production agriculture,” Barnard said. “So, if they go to the grocery store and they have a complaint about food prices going up, maybe if they understand the process, and the input costs, what it costs to raise the food, then maybe they’ll have more of an appreciation for area producers.”

“We’ve had students that go to Tri-County here donate some of their animals,” Holtmeier said. “We’ve had other local producers that either graduated from here, or have grandkids here that have donated animals. We have a lot of people here that donate their time.” And by taking the time to grill up some Nebraska beef, Tri-County Public Schools and local producers are enhancing the overall education of the students, while making lunch something to remember.

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