The life cycle of a farm animal
Most people don't give beef processing and butchering much thought. However, a group of New Richmond High School students, who make up the SOAR Centre Farm Crew, experienced the full life cycle of the cattle they raised on the farm this school year.
At the beginning of March, 10 students — along with NRHS agriscience teacher Rachel Sauvola — loaded the four steers, which the students had been raising since they were born, into a student's truck and trailer and drove to the slaughter house. The group watched their animals go through the whole process. The following Tuesday, students were at the butcher shop to watch the meat they raised turn into the order they needed to fulfill the district's lunch request.
"I think the processing pieces were great lessons, even for high school seniors. Many of them didn't really realize what all it takes to make the meat on your table," said Sauvola. "In visiting the slaughterhouse and the butcher, we watched our creatures that we raised from babies go through that whole process. I'm really proud of the kids for wanting to know and being there to really see a project to come to a closure."
On Friday, March 23, 1,479 pounds of roasts and burger were picked up by the Advanced Animal Science students and delivered to the district's freezer for use in school lunches.
"The school farm is giving me, a city boy, the opportunity to get involved in local agriculture. It also gives me a unique opportunity get a perspective on an industry that a lot of people have no personal experience or connection to. It's great being involved In a project where you can see the progress from beginning to end," said senior Brady Werner.
According to Sauvola, this is the first year students have gone through the process of slaughtering and butchering their cattle, but it will now become an every-year project as part of the farm to school concept Sauvola and her students are working on creating for the district.
"Having the SOAR Center has given me the opportunity to become a leader. Working with all of the animals and my fellow classmates has been a lot of fun, especially when it's all going towards school lunch and teaching students," said senior Austin Raymond, who is one of the current SOAR Center managers.
In addition to the cattle project, Sauvola is also working on creating a garden at the SOAR Center to further advance the farm to table concept.
"It really helps break up the monotony of the normal school day because I get to do something I actually enjoy. I like being able to use practical skills that will be valuable to me when I graduate. I think it's really cool when I can show a 'non farm kid' something new about agriculture," said junior Rachel Skinner, who will be one of the two SOAR Center managers next year.
This year's farm crew was made up of Austin Raymond, Katy Hermansen, Rachel Skinner, Brady Werner, Maddie Yehlik, Chris White, Olivia Becker, Hanna Johnson, Dane Swanda, Clayton Van Dyk, and Michaela Kappos. Two students from this year's farm crew will return next school year, while 10 new students will enter the program next year.
The four steers for this year's project were donated by Lance and Ryan Kamm and Lowell and Karen Volkert. The steers in the mix for next year come from Pat Geraghty, the Mitchells and the Raymond Dairy. One steer was bred and owned by Austin Raymond as his way to leave a legacy on the project. Chickens, ducks and a goat have also been donated.
Those interested in helping out at the SOAR Center can contact Sauvola at firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-243-1761.