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FOX LAKE – Students at SAGES, (the School for Agricultural and Environmental Studies) in Fox Lake celebrated National Agriculture Week with a special event, “Agriculture: Food for Life” day on Thursday.

Area professionals came to the school to share their expertise in several areas of food production. Students also learned about how food has changed over the centuries and the influence of various nationalities on foods that are popular today.

The students learned the “cycle of cheese” from Dylan Knudsen and Michelle Kuffa, food scientists at Kerry Foods and Ingredients.

The two described how they apply their skills in food preparation and food safety to taking a product that begins on the farm and adding value to it with the application of additional ingredients and packaging.

Using students to help with their demonstration, they showed how the bread-coated, individually wrapped cheese sticks begin on the farm with the cows. The cows’ milk is shipped to a cheese plant and made into cheese sticks. Meanwhile, a wheat farmer is harvesting and selling grain to be made into breading. The scientist then develops a recipe for coating the cheese sticks with the breading. Other scientists at the company design packaging and then the product is shipped out to stores where grocers pass the product on to hungry consumers.

They demonstrated how the product is tested along the way to make sure safety standards are followed and how labeling and record keeping helps companies track the product from start to finish.

Asked where Kerry products can be found, Kuffa explained that the company is actually an ingredient company. Headquartered in Ireland, Kerry food products are available there, but only Kerry brand butter is available in the U.S. but not in Wisconsin.

The incredible egg

Meanwhile, in another classroom Louis Arrington, Wisconsin Poultry and Egg Association and UW-Madison Professor Emeritus and Ron Kean, UW-Extension poultry specialist, shared information about poultry and eggs.

Students were particularly interested in the ways to determine the freshness or age of an egg.

Arrington demonstrated that if an egg floats in water, it is likely old. If it sinks, it is fresh. He says that’s because eggs lose some moisture through the pores in the shell over time. He says because of those pores, eggs can also pick up flavors from other foods in the refrigerator if they are kept there too long.

Kean explained the labeling on egg cartons, noting that there should be a date indicating when the store should pull the eggs off the shelf. There should also be a number, following the “sell by” date that indicates the day of the year the eggs were packed. The number 46, for instance, indicates that the eggs were packed in the middle of February, the 46th day of the year.

Students were particularly fascinated by Arrington’s demonstration to indicate how to determine if an egg has been hard cooked or if it is raw. If an egg is spun around on a counter top and it keeps rolling around, it is raw.  If it is spun and then stops, it is cooked because there is no liquid sloshing around inside the shell.

Ice cream, beef and more

Students had a special treat from Mara Budde when she shared the story of how the Baerwald family cares for their cows and bottles their own milk at Sassy Cow Creamery at Columbus. The family also makes ice cream in their on-farm plant.

Meanwhile in other classrooms Jayde Farbo of the Wisconsin Beef Council explained the basics of beef animal care and the process of getting the meat into the stores. Mark Myers of Seminis Vegetable Seeds/Monsanto, talked about the vegetable processing industry and the role of seed production and development in that industry.

Mark Meagher and Matt Boelter, area milk haulers, brought a milk truck to the school and described to students, how milk makes its way from the farm to the processing plant.

Barn quilt fundraiser

The day was concluded with the announcement of the winner of the barn quilt design contest.

Learners and guests traveled through the school halls following the SAGES second grade “barn quilt trail” and voted on their favorite quilt pattern. During the coming week the second graders will paint the winning design on a 4’ by 4’ board to be auctioned off at the school’s annual fundraiser sponsored by Friends of SAGES at the Fox Lake Community Center.

The banquet is Monday, April 17, with doors opening at 5:30 and dinner and program at 6:30 p.m. The event will also feature a live and silent auction, raffle and school presentations. The public is invited to attend.

SAGES is a part of the Waupun Area School District. It is a K-8 public charter school that, for the last five years has maintained a project-based, agricultural and environmental science focus.

SAGES has earned a 5-Star “Significantly Exceeds Expectations” school report card rating from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for the 2015-16 school year.

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