Tri County Farm to Fork program has been able to bring area beef and pork producers together to provide one meal a month for elementary and high school students.
The program maintains and educational component to help students understand the nutritional value, as well as an understanding of where their food comes from and crop production practices used to grow feed for animals.
“We started in the FFA Alumni meetings, but we formed our own committee,” said Kirk Holtmeier, Treasurer for Farm to Fork. “We just wanted to get fresh produce to the kids. We grill about 450-500 patties every month on equipment built by the shop kids,”
Ryan Clark, Tri County Principal, said the school is grateful for the program.
“Our administration has supported this program 110%,” he said. “Agriculture is such a big part of the community and obviously, the fresh produce has been a key part of the program, but our kids are experiencing the generous giving and community support, that’s the biggest benefit. Not everyone has that opportunity.”
“It’s much bigger than just the lunch,” Clark added.
Dave Barnard, Ag Instructor and FFA Advisor, works with FFA students to educate elementary students in animal and crop production.
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“We’ve done coloring contests, posters, read books in the classroom and today they get to guess the weight of the gilt we have in the trailer,” he said. “Some of the students helped with a build your own pizza project. They learned about the wheat to make the dough and then the meat, cheese and vegetables.
“The grow tower in the classroom is used to grow lettuce. We have pen pals in Omaha that is a part of our ag literacy program, too. We’re one of two schools in the state that has a single tower center pivot. The kids did grant writing and fundraising and it’s ours. We’re going to grow soybeans the first year.”
There are approximately 70 youth that are involved in the Tri County FFA program.
August Gerlach, a Tri County student, said he thought the Farm to Fork program was good.
“It’s a great way for elementary and even high school students to know what’s going on,” said Gerlach.
Mya Maxwell said she likes the Farm to Fork program is a nice break from school lunch.
Nicky Porter, Cafeteria Manager, said she loves halving the fresh beef and pork.
“Fortunately we have a large ag based community that are willing to donate meat and produce,” said Brandon Esau, volunteer. “Unfortunately, the cost of processing meat has gone up considerably, but we are still able to get the meat to the kids at no cost to them.
“Our budget is around $16,000 per year. The goal is to obtain commitments to the program that would sustain this effort for at least three years. We estimate a need for six beef and twelve hogs per year and funds to process the meat.”
Any donation of beef or pork market animals, grain through the local cooperative or financial is tax deductible.