From farm to food

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 8, 2011



GRAMERCY – Elementary school students from across St. John the Baptist Parish spent Tuesday morning learning the basic agricultural principles of what it takes to make the foods they consume everyday.

Students shucked, shelled and ground corn into meal, learned the basics of the food pyramid, shopped for food products made from crops in a jungle setting and got the opportunity to try their hand at milking a simulated cow.

The events were part of a full day of activities at the parish’s fifth annual Ag Day at the Mosaic Fast Food Farm in Gramercy.

Denise Hymel, executive director of the Fast Food Farm, said the facility is a two-acre tract of sugarcane farming land that introduces students to the production of various fast foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and tacos. She said the farm’s goal is to show children the importance of agriculture to give them an understanding of where everyday foods come from while also giving them some insight into a healthier diet.

The day consisted of 20 separate activities with themes based on healthy eating, nutrition, weather events, soil protection and water conservation. There is also a petting farm — where kids got a hands-on look at baby chickens, rabbits, sheep and pigs — and a simulated cow milking station that showed students how to turn milk into butter.

Hymel said with the help of the parish’s 4-H Club the Fast Food Farm hosts thousands of students a year from schools in the River Parishes. She said the farm is looking to expand its reach to surrounding parishes to get even more students involved in the lessons being learned.

“Lesson plans focused on agricultural studies are becoming a much more popular trend in the school systems,” Hymel said. “We are finding that kids with more knowledge of where food comes from are more likely to pick up healthier eating habits.”