The Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation’s Farm-to-Fork program, an initiative that will put beef raised on school grounds into school cafeterias, reached an important milestone Thursday, November 10.
Construction of a shelter for the cattle is now complete. The shelter was officially moved to ground adjacent to the high school football field where the cattle will be raised.
Dan Peters, a local farmer and owner of Scrap Wood Sawmill in Rochester, offered to bring some of his own equipment and donate his own time to the project. Peters worked with students for three days a week over the course of two weeks to build the structure.
“Once they got into the groove of it, just get out of their way. The kids just did an awesome job,” said Peters, who has had a passion for agriculture his entire life.
The Farm-to-Fork initiative started as an idea in a political economic studies class about how to put a better quality meal on school cafeteria tables. The idea eventually turned into a plan to raise four calves to a certain weight, process the meat, and then use the meat in school lunches.
“Five years down the road, hopefully we are able to produce enough that we don’t have to buy any ground beef,” said Mike Jones, agriculture instructor and FFA advisor at the high school.
The school board is committed to supporting the project and funding the start-up costs including fencing, electricity, an automatic water system, calves, and feed. Community partnerships and grant money will be looked at to sustain the program in the future.
“This is the start of learning about where food comes from,” said instructor Jeff Shriver. “It’s the kind of thing I could see expanding from the agriculture classroom to an economics classroom, to a home-ec classroom, and then to a science classroom,” Shriver added.
Farm-to-Fork is something every student can benefit from regardless of their background. Shriver said having cows on the school grounds is a discussion starter within the community about sustainability and where food comes from.
Students taking an agriculture class or who are involved in FFA are sure to benefit, too. FFA members who may not have the space to raise their own animals or crops will be able to use the Farm-to-Fork program as part of their summer Supervised Agriculture Experience project, a requirement for any FFA member.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to use real-life experiences whether it’s balancing feed rations, looking at market prices to see what kind of price we’re buying them at, and then what their value would be if we were selling them even though they’re going to our cafeterias,” said Jones.
Assistant Superintendent Blaine Conley said he would like to have calves brought in by the end of the 2016 calendar year.