Farm to School

Collaboration Connects Agriculture and Nutrition at CD

Our goal, when we applied for the USDA Farm to School grant, was to enhance education about local, fresh food and how to grow and use that food in different ways. We wanted to introduce young students to healthier eating that will change the way they eat in their daily lives, to become healthier, and continue to make healthier choices as they grow.  Creating partnerships with community health organizations, businesses, local farmers and producers throughout Decatur County, all while accessing the students and families of both Central Decatur and Lamoni Community School Districts.

What We Are Doing at CD

The high school food and nutrition class began running a Food of the Month in the school year of 2019-20. The program mirrors the same fresh produce menu as the Pick A Better Snack grant Decatur County Public Health utilizes with our Pk-third grade students.  They research recipes and then show fourth grade students different ways to use  fruits and vegetables to maximize the nutritional value of a product that is not typically used in rural Iowa. The 2020-21 school year included two food and nutrition classes. These classes continued the food of the month program, but took over the crop of the month for the fifth and sixth grade students. This year they featured cantaloupe, oranges, sweet potatoes, squash, mangos, beets, and local meats. We have created a cook book of all the recipes the kids researched, cooked and taste tested. See the links below for digital copies.

High School FCS # 1 classes learned knife skills, and how to prepare several different types of fresh produce to be eaten by our PK- 6th grade students for our Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Grant program. The program provides a fresh produce snack every afternoon of the school week. This partnership with the nutrition department helps with the preparation  and provides hands on experience on how to prepare things like fresh pineapple, mangos, cantaloupe, cucumbers, kiwi, peppers, avocados, papaya, and radishes.

Central Decatur Greenhouse
The Central Decatur greenhouse sits behind the high school with easy access for agriculture students.

Central Decatur Greenhouse and Raised Beds

Starting in August of 2019, Ms. Sondag’s dream of finally building a school green house came to be. Thanks to a lot of grant writing and matching funds, a greenhouse was erected on school grounds. The past two school years have included the production romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato, watermelon, and cantaloupe harvests. Students have even tried raising a Brussels sprouts crop in the greenhouse and the raised beds.   CD students are in the fifth year of running an aquaponics system in the agriculture classroom. This is a great learning opportunity that also provides a service to the district.  The class grows tilapia and the waste from the fish moves through a system before fertilizing the lettuce plants that are the final stage of the process.   This year we focused on growing butter crunch lettuce and it was a hit with students and staff alike. 

lettuce plants growing under a light
Lettuce plants growing atop a tilapia hydroponic system in the CD agriculture room.

Crop of the Month

Senior agriculture students, in conjunction with the USDA Farm to School Grant we received for the 2019-2021 school years, are featuring a Crop of the Month educational mentoring session primarily with fifth and sixth grade classes.

Iowa Local Food Day

The school nutrition team has hosted anIowa Local Food Day October 11, the past three years. The day features many local food items on the breakfast and lunch menu that day.  Items served for these menus included sausage gravy and biscuits made from local sausage procured and bought from local 4-H students and the Wayne FFA, hamburgers made from local beef procured and bought from a local FFA student, local produce from Parmer’s Produce and the school raised beds, local sweet corn from the Leon Knights of Columbus, apples and sweet potatoes purchased from a food hub featuring Iowa produced crops.

Farrowing Trailer for Pork Production

The first ever portable farrowing trailer was recently added to the district. The trailer designed and built by Featherlite Trailers in Cresco Iowa, specifically for Central Decatur CSD, the agriculture program and the Farm to School projects.  Central Decatur’s first sow birthed 7 born dead, 4 that were live, and were only able save 1, named Penelope, who was pampered and bottle fed for quite some time. It was nothing to see her following one of the students down the hallway. We then purchased another piglet from Andrew Yoder to add some competition and companionship to Penelope’s life, and moved them to the Hamilton farm to be finished by Carlee (Class of 2021) and Hallee (Class of 2022) Hamilton.  We successfully, butchered both pigs In April in partnership with Milo Locker (who provides the federal inspection and stamp need to serve it in the school lunch program) and harvested, 750 raw pork patties, and 110 pounds of breakfast sausage to be used in our school lunch program! 

Lamoni agriculture students have farrowed 17 live pigs, to begin with and so far have weaned 14 live ones with the hopes of butchering them this fall and using them in the Lamoni and Central Decatur CSD lunch and breakfast programs.

School lunch of chicken and gravy with peas
CD agriculture students raised broiler chickens for the school nutrition program.

Raising Broiler Chickens

Central Decatur Junior Animal Science Class has been raising broiler chickens for several years. The past three years the kids have raised and  butchered the broilers with the help of a valued community helper, Lisa Porter. Twenty-one broilers,  averaging 8.5 pounds each, have been cooked and utilized in the school lunch program as homemade cream chicken over biscuits and BBQ chicken sandwiches for the track hospitality room meal.

Young chickens sitting beneath heat lamps
CD agriculture students raised poultry for the school nutrition program.