HAGERSTOWN, Ind. (AP) — School lunches are about to take on
new meaning at Hagerstown Jr. Sr. High School.
Plans are under way for the school’s students to raise their
own beef cattle during agriculture classes this year, the same cows that will be
slaughtered, butchered and, ultimately, turned into the hamburgers that will be
served in the cafeteria.
Officials are calling the initiative “Where’s The Beef?” and
agriculture teacher Nathan Williamson said it will offer a unique learning
opportunity for his students and a $2,000 cost savings for the Nettle Creek
School Corporation’s budget.
“It doesn’t get any more hands-on than this,” Williamson
told the Palladium-Item.
“They have a vested interest in this. All of these guys eat in the school
Students have begun erecting a fence on a hillside just
northeast of the high school on land the school corporation owns.
The plan is to solicit bids for the cattle and buy up to 10
beef cattle annually, with students doing all the work as part of the
requirements to complete the animal science and agriculture mechanics classes.
“We’ll feed them corn throughout the winter,” Williamson
said. “The students will do all the work. And on top of just their general
care-taking, I’d like to have some small projects for them and changing the feed
rations so they can learn a little about that.”
“Part of the end goal of this is to make it as much of a
whole-school activity as possible,” he said.
Students have responded well to the unusual school
activities, especially having the opportunity to learn outside the traditional
“I love just learning this stuff,” senior Eli Reagan said.
“I don’t get to do this stuff outside of school, so it’s nice to come in and
learn to build a fence, just in case I have to do it in the future. It’s been a
good time being outside of class and just working with our hands.”
Senior Connor Mathews agrees. And he has a message for the
school’s underclassmen: “The class below us should really thank us for this.”
The school corporation will be aided by donations from a
number of supporters, including several area companies that have donated
supplies or excavated the property where the fence is being built at the corner
of Pike and Lacy roads.
They include Brown’s Excavating and Drainage in Greens Fork,
Weddle Fencing Company in Farmland, Fraley Truck and Implement in Rushville, and
Applegate Livestock Equipment in Union City.
One year from now, Williamson said the cows that current
students will feed and care for will be turned into whole-cow hamburgers, an
upgrade over the burgers currently served in the cafeteria.
“We can’t afford to give every student a T-bone steak, but
whole cow hamburger is generally better quality than a regular hamburger you’re
going to get in the store,” he said. “We know where all of our meat is going to
be coming from. When we ask for bids, we’ll rely on our expertise. We want
quality cattle, but we want the best we can afford.”
Nettle Creek Superintendent Bill Doering said “Where’s The
Beef?” — which Williamson proposed with fellow agriculture teacher Don Strugeon
— is their contribution to his call for the district to “right-size” or cut
Last year, Doering proposed a cost-cutting strategy to save
the district of 1,100 students an estimated $350,000 through the current school
year after it lost 41 students last fall and 25 were lost the year before.
Indiana’s schools receive about $6,000 per student in
Doering’s strategy included a renewed commitment to
decreasing utility costs and the layoffs of five teachers, a librarian and
several teaching assistant positions.
He spared the district’s swim program and certain elementary
sports once volunteers came forward to help and propose new opportunities to
“Everybody has had to become creative,” he said. “This is
Mr. Williamson and Mr. Sturgeon’s brainchild. They came and pitched the idea.
Not only is it a chance to save some money, but it’s also a chance to give kids
opportunities that they don’t have anywhere else in the area.”
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.