If you surveyed teens as to what their favorite food is, chances are, the hamburger would be in the top three. But while many young people can’t get enough of the patty sandwiched between two buns (possibly slathered in special sauce?), they probably don’t give any thought to how those ingredients are grown and raised.
A unique program in the small town of Hagerstown, Indiana (population 1,769) is changing that, while at the same time, saving the district money. As the New York Times reports, students at the local junior-senior high school are enrolled in a very hands-on agricultural science class that teaches them how to raise their own livestock and crops. Eventually, these items will be harvested and processed and be served in the school’s very own cafeteria.
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As the Times notes, the classes are combating two big problems in the community: A decline of local farmers, as well as decreased school funding and budget cuts in the wake of the Great Recession. Turns out, the pork, beef, chicken, fruits and vegetables being grown right on the campus farm is expected to save the school a lot of money — at least $2,000 annually in cafeteria costs. Additionally, the Times reports that that the campus-raised beef is replacing 5,000 pounds of hamburger patties that the district was purchasing at $3.30 per pound.
Significantly, in a town where one of the two listed local groceries is a place called Gas America, this program is encouraging healthier diets, local agriculture, and sustainable farming practices. Garrett Blevins, a junior at the school, told the Times he’s now considering a career in agriculture thanks to the program. “There are kids out there who would never experience agriculture until they join these programs,” he said. “Once they do, it will open up a whole new world.”