DRESDEN, TN — For nearly 70 years, students at Dresden High School in Tennessee have worked on the farm at the school. It’s the only one like it in the state. Now, the school district is looking for ways to incorporate farming into more facets of the curriculum and get more people involved.
It's part of Weakley County Schools' new "Farm to School" initiative. It kicked off Tuesday with a public event to see and taste foods grown and processed locally. The sausage served at the event was made from pork raised at the high school's farm.
Agriculture teacher Jason Kemp grew up on his family farm. Now, he teaches those life skills on the school’s 65-acre farm.
"Not everything is peaches and cream on the farm. There’s a lot of hard work that goes on," Kemp says. "I like that part of it, the aspect of (training) our society to be able to work and to follow through. But I guess the utmost part is the importance of agriculture and what it does for us in daily life.”
He and his students get hands-on experience from veterinary science classes to selling cattle to local processors. They even grow their own grain to feed the animals.
The program shows students how to raise the animals from newborn to harvest, all in a humane way. The students are constantly interacting with the livestock.
Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network co-founder Samantha Goyet wants to bring the farm into local school cafeterias.
"Not only do the kids win by getting local food and eating fresher, but the farmers win because it’s providing them a solid income base," Goyet says. "Over the course of a year, Weakley County Schools serve half a million lunches."
She wants to get other local farms involved and make it a movement.
"The common thing that ties us all together is agriculture. Without agriculture, we would be unclothed and unfed," Kemp says.
The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, now an official nonprofit in the area, paid for all of the fresh farm food for the event on Tuesday introducing people to farms in their area. They also just received a $49,000 grant to put together their “Farm to School” plan which is expected to be complete by April 2021.
October is National Farm to School month, during which school districts across the nation celebrate having local food in their cafeterias.