WORLAND — Seventh- and eighth-graders at Thermopolis Middle School are feeding their school with a new vocational learning course called “farm to school.”
Becky Martinez, a vocational teacher at the middle school, teaches the first-year course, which is designed “to try and get people to eat local produce that we have available,” Martinez said. She added that the program is about educating students on where their food comes from.
This year, Martinez has taken the 22 students who take the class to visit and gain hands-on experience from local producers and growers.
Their most recent stop was at Circle J Ranch in Ten Sleep. The students wrote a brief summary of each trip and said, “On Oct. 5, Thermopolis Middle School’s Farm to School class went to Ten Sleep to pick apples for our school lunch program. Circle J was a great learning experience because we learned about the history of Circle J. We also learned about the irrigation system and the way the orchard gets taken care of.”
Students brought back 20 pounds of apples and peeled and cored them so they could be used in an apple crisp served for lunch on Monday, Martinez said.
They also stopped at Kent Hessenthaler’s corn field as part of the program. There, students picked corn, shucked it and cleaned it up so the lunchroom staff could serve it at lunch. The students said, “We went to Hessenthaler corn field to pick corn on Sept. 12, and picked 12 dozen ears of corn. This was a learning experience for us as we accidentally picked more than needed and some of it was not mature enough to eat. We took it back to school and had to shuck and wash the corn. The whole school ate the corn for two days.”
Another outing for the class wasn’t very far afield, but it was memorable for the students.
The class harvested potatoes from the school garden for the school lunch program and Martinez said, “We had about six rows of potatoes and we had a hailstorm and shortly after the hailstorm we went out and harvested the potatoes.” Martinez said the automatic watering system wasn’t turned off so it was very muddy.
“It was a muddy mess, but the kids loved it,” she said. From the multiple-day event, students were able to get 119 pounds of potatoes.
The first day the lunchroom staff were able to use them was on Oct. 6. “They served chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, but they didn’t use them all,” Martinez said adding that with the abundance of the potatoes the lunchroom staff used them in a soup and might put them in a shepherd’s pie to serve at lunch.
“They’ll get three meals out of the potatoes from our school garden,” Martinez said.
She said the lunchroom staff keeps track of how many hot and cold lunches are given out. When the students’ potatoes were used she said over 90 percent of the student body picked a hot lunch to try the potatoes.
Martinez said students enjoy the course and it is a way for them to take ownership in what they do.
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