Free Meat Monday: North Dakota Farm Bureau groups keep meat on the menu at local schools
for Tri-State Livestock News
Free Meat Monday was started as a steak tip, er, tongue in cheek rebuttal to the former Presidential Administration views on school lunches including the push for a ‘Meat Free Monday’. According to several sources, during a North Dakota Farm Bureau (NDFB) board meeting several years ago one of the Dickey County members asked “We don’t we support a FREE Meat Monday instead?” the idea was shared to the state board and it grew from there.
The North Dakota Farm Bureau has had this program in place for a few years and 5 counties have hosted events so far. On Feb. 19 the Adams County Farm Bureau kicked off 2018 by hosting lunch at the Hettinger School.
“The county farm bureaus are providing a meal and serving at the schools to promote Agriculture and the Farm bureau’s connection to the community-Says Haley Robison, NDFB Southwest District Representative. Robison is a third generation farm and ranch family from Scranton, ND; as well as a third generation Farm Bureau member, and officer. Her father served on the board as well as her Grandfather, and her Grandmother was the President of the Women’s Farm Bureau board.
“My favorite part of the program is getting to work with the kids and teach them farm to table. Their excitement is contagious, and listening to them talk about meeting a farmer is amazing, pretty soon you start hearing them telling stories about farm animals, especially cows around their lunch tables” Robison continues.
Guiding the program is the idea to reconnect people from farm to table, and help people understand the processes behind how food ends up in the store and then on the tables at home.
Here on the Northern Plains, you might be hard pressed to find a child who didn’t know that beef comes from cows, bread is available because of the farmers who work untold hours in the spring planting, and then again during harvest. Unfortunately, not all children are so fortunate to be able to see the front lines of food production for our country and the world.
Buzzwords like factory farming, and GMO’s create huge conversations especially on social media platforms, though those conversations seldom include the farmers and ranchers who are experts in their fields. Programs like this help educate children and provide them with new experiences; and help create pathways for conversations about agriculture to those who might not see the full picture.
The children in Adams County for example were served by Mitch Miller and Ben Laufer, both members of the Adams County Bureau. “We asked if they wanted us to help cook too” says Miller “But the Kitchen Staff at the school handled that all for us.” Around 150 students K-12 were served hot beef sandwiches and received “I met a farmer today!” stickers.
Miller is a second generation farmer who graduated from Hettinger in 2012. His father started farming in the area in 1976 and now they farm about 8000 acres of row crops, and they currently run 45 cow/calf pairs.
“What I love about farming and ranching is that every day requires something different and you learn new things. Skills you can take with you to any other job you might wish to do. Sharing that with children is important. I think everyone should know that farmers and ranchers work hard and the production costs are very high when the returns are break even or less some years.”
The children were encouraged to ask questions, and the farm to table connection was emphasized, the bread comes from wheat farmers, the beef from ranches and so on. “This is something we have been encouraging our county Farm Bureau’s to sponsor during NDFB Week March 11-17.” Robison also commented.
Adams County Farm Bureau sponsored two students to go to the National FFA convention, and scheduling conflicts during NDFB week prompted them to host their event on the 19th. “We had fun with it and I know it is on the agenda for our March meeting” said Miller “I think we will continue the event.”
Several members of the community commented on a social media post made by the North Dakota Farm Bureau praising the program and the outreach in the Hettinger community. “What a great idea! Thanks ACFB, Ben and Mitch. Way to represent farmers!” Says LeAnn Lutz. “Great Stuff, Thanks Ben and Mitch, I wondered where my son got his farmer sticker!” wrote Liz Johnson Hallen. Other commenters expressed excitement and happiness about the event. Its clear the community embraced the program and its ideals.
In addition to Adams County, Dunn, Bowman and Stark County are planning events, Golden Valley County may also host an event this year in March. The program is funded by the Farm Bureau, the school orders the ingredients and County Bureau hosting the event pays the tab and serves the meal for the day.
In the age where it seems agriculture is constantly under fire from every angle, the best way to combat offense is in this case offense, in the form of community outreach and educational opportunity, and having fun while they are doing it is just icing on the cake.