A Morris FFA program brings city kids closer to what they eat.
"Where does your pizza come from?" the blue-T-shirted teen ambassadors from farm country asked the mostly Latino classroom in south Minneapolis. "Little Caesars," sang out one kindergartner.
That's probably true for many in this class of 18 at Hans Christian Andersen United Community School, but it's not the answer these Future Farmers of America members from the Morris area sought. Step by step, they broke down the elements of a pizza, from box to toppings, tracing them back to their origins on a farm.
Later Friday, the school's 1,000 students got to meet what they eat. They thronged around pens on the playground holding six head of livestock. They scratched the bellies of 250-pound hogs, wound their fingers in the wool of Hampshire sheep, gingerly felt the velvety ear of a patient Holstein and jumped at the bellow of a Limousin steer.
And, since inquiring minds wanted to know, they also asked, "How big is cow poop?"
Their journey from farm to food was completed later at lunch when the 34 Morris students, supplemented by parents and other ag boosters, served cheeseburgers to the entire school.
The event, Agriculture in the Classroom, was the third year that the Morris FFA has ventured to a Minneapolis school to evangelize for agriculture in a program backed by state officials and agribusinesses. The Morris group has been a leader in making the farm-city connection; representatives of five other chapters accompanied them so they can join in spreading the farm gospel.
Matt Huot explained how milk is extracted from a cow and its route to a refrigerator. He works on a dairy where milking begins around 4:30 a.m. One thing that stood out to him is that Andersen students get their breakfasts and lunch pre-packaged rather than the scratch-cooked meals Morris students are used to at their school. Ninety-eight percent of Andersen's students come from families poor enough that they get free or reduced-price lunches; that figure is 26 percent for Morris.
The latest Morris visit comes as new Minneapolis nutrition director Bertrand Weber works to forge closer links with farms.
Steve Date, a fifth-grade Andersen teacher, shot video in Morris of feedlots to give students a better sense of a farm.
Shawn Granda Loja, a third-grader, knew his priorities: "Are we going to eat something?" he queried. His class was noticeably sharp on the origins of food. Teacher Catherine Lee said they'd already had a visit from a hog farmer and a feeder pig. "These types of experiences are the ones the kids will remember and take back with them," Lee said.
But there is still work to be done on ag education, evident when some students mistook a 1,200-pound steer Jake Moser was tending for a horse. "I learn how distant they are from agriculture," he said.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438