Fast Food Farm grows message with children

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 21, 2018

GRAMERCY — For many years, Fast Food Farm Executive Director Denise Hymel has guided children through an activity comparing an apple to the Earth.

Three-fourths is promptly sliced off, representing oceans that can’t be used for drinking or farming. The remaining quarter is further divided until students are left with a slither of apple peel torn from the last 1/32 of a slice.

The tiny remnant represents the amount of farmable land that must yield enough food to support nine billion people by 2050.

Born and raised on a produce farm, Hymel grew up tending to chickens and wearing clothes sewn from rice bags. Today, she teaches children the importance of the farmers who grow ingredients that comprise hamburgers, hotdogs, seasonings and other favorite foods.

Students get a close look at a John Deere tractor during a recent Ag Day.

“Teaching the students about agriculture makes them understand how we are truly students of the land,” Hymel said.

“We are conservationists, and we are always looking for the best methods we can use to preserve our land. Once you put children’s hands into that earth, they gain a compassion for the Earth, for themselves and others.”

Since 2001, Fast Food Farm has hosted field trips from schools in the River Parishes and beyond. Nearly 900 kindergarteners-through-second graders took part in a biannual Ag Day last week.

Students crafted recycling pledge bracelets, planted seeds in biodegradable newspaper pots, learned the importance of bees and pollination, made gummy polymers, reviewed plant parts and participated in several other activities. Hymel said the most rewarding part is the “light bulb” moment when students and teachers understand the concepts.

Dawn Culbreath teaches students how to make lip balm from beeswax.

A portion of the farm’s produce and eggs goes to St. Vincent in Lutcher to feed the hungry. Hymel said egg donations from January to March alone fed 544 people.

Mosaic Fertilizer is Fast Food Farm’s primary supporter. Since 2010, Mosaic has provided catering and volunteers for Ag Day events and funded infrastructure improvements to create the on-site Mosaic Kid’s Kitchen.

Public Affairs Specialist Jackie McCreary said Mosaic is driven by a mission to help the world grow the food it needs, and it’s important to support agriculture-related educational programs offered through the Fast Food Farm.

The farm is located off of Louisiana 3125 in Gramercy. For more information, call Hymel at 985-817-0808.