The Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation's Farm-to-Fork program is well underway. The program is an initiative to place beef products that have been raised on the school grounds into the corporation's cafeterias. Four crossbred steers are now being raised on a plot adjacent to the high school football field.
The steers were purchased around 1,000 pounds and were delivered to the school on Dec. 8. The four beef cattle were purchased from Dale Miller who raises cattle on his farm near Claypool. He offered the steers to the school at a discounted price. He spent his entire life around agriculture and wanted to be involved with the program as soon as he heard about it.
According to Mike Jones, agriculture instructor and FFA advisor, the steers should be ready to go to the processing plant in another four weeks. The meat from each steer will last two to three months to feed the amount of kids in each school.
"We didn't want to get steers that weighed much less than 1,000 pounds because one of the goals of the program, especially in its first year, was to have the meat served to students before this year's senior class graduates," he said. "The steers are now around 1,250 pounds. Each school in the corporation will get a steer for consumption."
The steers are a mix of both Angus and Hereford breeds. They will be raised to a certain weight and then processed at a USDA-inspected processing facility.
According to economics instructor Jeff Shriver, the Farm-to-Fork idea started as an idea in a political economic studies class about how to put better quality meat in school cafeterias. The idea eventually turned into a plan to raise four calves to a certain weight, process them and then use it in the school's cafeterias.
Before the steers could arrive, the FFA in addition to several other students, faculty and community members helped build the fence and shelter for the cattle. In addition, they made a trip to the processing plant to see how the full butchering process is done.
The steers are now on full-feed which minimizes the amount of work that the FFA members and others have to put into them. The school corporation has received donations such as corn and hay from local farmers and grain elevators/stores for the cattle.
Shayleigh Shriver, FFA member, shared her input on the Farm-to-Fork program and the experiences she has had with it.
"Most of us (FFA members) have worked or grown up on farms so we understand the time and work that it takes to raise animals. For being in such a rural community, it was surprising to a lot of us to find out that many of the kids in our high school don't know where food actually comes from," she said.
In addition, FFA member Hannah Gibbons said, "I think the program is really good for our school, especially since we get the meat from them. I also think it's really good education for the ag classes."
The program has turned into a learning opportunity for not only the agriculture students and FFA members but other classes such as economics have benefited from it.
FFA member Aerin Shewman said that some kids in high school don't know where their food specifically comes from and the process it takes to get from the farm to their table. That's where the Farm-to-Fork program comes in handy. It allows students to gain a better understanding of how food is grown and processed.
"That's just another thing that makes this program unique," said Shewman.
A variety of subjects will benefit from the program in the near future, with curriculum being designed around the project. Community partnerships and grant money will be looked at to sustain Farm-to-Fork in the future.