Thanks to a new program, students in McMinn County schools received a special holiday beef lunch proudly produced by its own animal science students. Annette Bryant, McMinn Central High School’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, began raising animals with her classes on the school’s 10-acre farm with the goal of providing show animals for her students. Five years later, they are also providing nutritious beef and pork to school lunches.
Sarah Prince, Director of McMinn County School Nutrition, and Bryant partnered to develop the Farm-To-School program overseen by the newly formed McMinn Farm-To-School Committee. Bryant and her students received initial funding for the project through generous donations from Athens Stockyard, McMinn County Livestock Association, and Farm Credit Mid-America. This funding allowed them to purchase three calves, adding to the hogs they were already raising. One of the goals of the program is to provide a special beef and pork meal to all nine county schools.
The high school animal science students managed the cattle and hogs from gate to plate, ensuring all aspects of proper care for the farm animals including health, nutrition, and record-keeping. When asked about the importance of projects like this one, Mrs. Bryant says, “One cannot solely teach or learn from textbooks, videos, and standards. There has to be an actual hands-on experience for knowledge to root long term”. The animals were processed at Blankenship Farms, a local meat USDA inspected processor, and delivered to county schools for use in a coordinated lunch-and-learn event.
At the lunch-and-learn events, FFA & 4-H students and local cattle producers were in attendance at all 9 county schools to talk with students about beef and answer their questions. Prior to the lunches, FFA & 4-H student attended a three-hour beef course taught by Mrs. Bryant, with educational materials provided by the Tennessee Beef Industry Council, to prepare them for answering questions. The lunch events were a success, serving beef roast with potatoes and carrots to approximately 4,000 students across the county. Pork from this project is scheduled to be served during FFA week in February. Mrs. Bryant and the Farm-To-School committee have already begun making plans for more events in the 2019-2020 school year and look forward to continuing the conversation about where our food comes from and the care and attention to detail that goes into providing people with nutritious food.
“One cannot solely teach or learn from textbooks, videos, and standards. There has to be an actual hands-on experience for knowledge to root long term”.