POINT PLEASANT — Mason County schools, along with the West Virginia Department of Education, recently joined together in celebration of National Farm to School month.
During a ceremony and luncheon recently held at Point Pleasant Intermediate School (PPIS), Mike Hall, chief of staff for Governor Jim Justice, read aloud a proclamation declaring October as National Farm to School month. Students and guests were able to learn about the Farm to School program which began in Mason County schools in 2011-12.
Mason County Schools Superintendent Jack Cullen said he and the members of the Mason County School Board have supported this program 100 percent since it has began, explaining whenever there is a chance to have farmers produce crops to be purchased and served within the schools, it is a win-win situation.
“With the Farm to School Program, you have to have farmers…there are all kinds of items we get from local farmers,” said Cullen. “For the last three years we’ve purchased the market hogs and this past year we also purchased market steers (at the Mason County Fair) and when you have something like that where you have animals growing right here in Mason County owned originally by our own students, some students right here in front of me…to be able to do that and to provide those animals back to our students is outstanding.”
According to the Farm to School website, 42 percent of U.S. schools are participating in this program. When a school decides to join the program, students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as educational opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons, and farm field trips. This program is a way to educate children and their families to help them make informed food choices while at the same time strengthening the local economy and contributing to the community.
Farm to School differs by location, but students participate in one or more of the following: procurement, which is where local foods are purchased, promoted, and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste-test; education, where students participate in educational activities related to agriculture, food, health, or nutrition; school gardens, where students get a hands-on gardening experience.
Jason Hughes, state FFA advisor, explained agricultural education continues to grow and is a form of study where students are able to apply what they learn, preparing them for college and their future careers. Agricultural education opens the door to approximately 235 different careers and students not only gain knowledge in agricultural production, but also in science fields. According to Hughes, FFA is doing better than it ever has in the state of West Virginia.
Mason County Vocational FFA President Brianna Haga shared she has been in the FFA for four years and in the 4-H program for 10 years.
“Here in Mason County we are truly thankful for our local farmers that raise and grow local meats and produce to allow the schools to purchase to feed students as well as feeding families at home,” said Haga.
Other speakers of the day included Jason Bechtle, of the WVU Extension Service, and Amanda Harrison, executive director of the Office of Child Nutrition within the West Virginia Board of Education.
PPIS Principal Stacey Walton gave the welcome, PPIS Sixth Grader Riayn Fetty led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the PPIS Choir performed the Star Spangled Banner.
Following the ceremony, a luncheon was held where BBQ brisket (purchased from Mason County 4-H and FFA students) with a whole grain roll, pulled pork BBQ (purchased from Mason County 4-H and FFA students) on a whole grain bun was served along with seasoned potato wedges (grown in Mason County), baked beans, coleslaw, apple crisp (made from Preston County apples), vanilla ice cream, and a garden bar (grown in Mason County).
Several students from the Mason County Career Center including pro-start culinary students, welding students, 4-H and FFA students, were helping hands for this event.
Some information from www.farmtoschool.org was used in this article.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.