High school students raise chickens for school lunch

FFA students raising chickens for Farm 2 School program

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Fresh from the garden to your table.” Well, the Holmen School District takes that saying to heart. It has students growing, planting and even raising their school lunch.

At Holmen High School students grow many different things in their gardens. And now, they’re raising chickens.

With the Farm 2 School program in districts all over the area, teachers and students at Holmen High School said they began looking at the whole lunch tray, and found their plate was missing some locally grown chicken.

On Wednesday’s lunch menu at Holmen high school is Tuesday night’s harvest — corn on the cob grown and picked by students.

“All of our schools have food gardens and within those gardens we’re growing things like potatoes, radishes, some herbs, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, squash,” district nutrition services supervisor Michael Gasper said.

Coming soon to the garden menu, chicken from its “chicken garden.”

“First you start out by raking their bedding so all the wet bedding goes to the bottom and the dry comes to the top and then you feed them,” Holmen Junior Gregory O’Laughlin said during his morning chores.

After school each day O’Laughlin drives about 4 miles out of town to take care of the chickens.

Those chickens are the third hatch he and a few classmates are raising to educate students there’s more to the meal than what’s on their tray.

“It really gets kids to know where their food comes from and not just, it starts out as a chicken breast. It comes from a chicken, from a farmer who put the time in to really raise it from an egg, to a chick, to your school lunch,” Holmen senior Chris Jessen said.

“We started the program looking at it through our Farm 2 School Program and trying to get students involved in producing food for our school lunch program,” Holmen High School agriscience teacher and FFA adviser Roger King said.

King said the idea to raise chickens came from his students.

The other foods they’ve grown, like Wednesday’s corn on the cob, have been a big hit with other students in the district.

“‘You guys raised this?’ I got a lot of that with the sweet corn,” Jessen said.

O’Laughlin and Jessen are excited to see what friends say about their chicken.

“It was a closer connection. They could talk to you about it, not just, ‘Oh yeah it’s good food.’ It was, ‘You raised this? Good job,'” Jessen said.

This is not a class for these students. They raise the chickens for the school on their own time.

It is funded by the Seeds of Change grant. A $10,000 grant awarded to Holmen district last year. The district is one of only 17 schools in the U.S. to get the grant.

The district hopes the students will be able to raise enough chickens to serve every student in the district someday in January or February.