On Wednesday I got to take a long drive from our facility in Colfax to a 4H summer camp in North Webster. Taking the state and county roads through a largely agricultural region, I reflected on my talking points. Keeping the attention of anyone is difficult (let alone 3rd to 6th graders) without some sort of visual aid. Coming from a meat processing plant it’s quite convenient to supply organs from beef and hogs and use them to touch on the impact of livestock raising practices on the health of the animal, as well as a general anatomy lesson.
Typically, this type of outreach revolves around ensuring kids know where their food comes from. To many kids, it’s not obvious that a frozen meat patty came from an animal. Too often when I ask, “Where does food come from?” kids respond with “the grocery store” or “the restaurant”. Showing a fresh heart seems to instill the fact that the meat we eat came from a live animal somewhere much more deeply. Having had to explain to too many kids that food comes from a farm, I was expecting the same ordeal.
I was very wrong. More than 200 3rd to 6th graders attended, which is far too many for me to attend to myself. Thus, a few high school kids who were volunteering as camp counselors for the week were assigned to help me out. I briefly went over the organs I had and some of their basic functions. I then assigned each of my volunteers to a set of organs (I had two sets from hogs and two sets from beef) and crossed my fingers that they would remember what I said and be able to pass it on to the younger kids.
It could not have gone better. My helpers had high school biology much fresher in their minds than I, and years of 4H experience. Not only did they pass on what I told them, but they added information on their own and taught me a few things. They were familiar with the livestock and understood the connection between the land, their food, and themselves. I was very impressed. It made me realize that I’m perhaps a bit melodramatic when I criticize the disconnect between Americans and their food. There are many young people with an understanding of where their food comes from, it’s just easier to find them farther from an interstate.